Health insurance is mandatory in Belgium, and basic cover is generally provided by the national social security system. Contributions are paid by both employers and employees.
For most medical services, you must pay the bill and then submit the receipt for reimbursement. Reimbursements are usually less than the charges incurred. Many employers provide supplementary health insurance cover as an employment benefit, or you can purchase individual cover.
Irrespective of your nationality, everybody living in or visiting Belgium must have health insurance, since medical costs (especially hospitalisations) can be very high. Before you leave your home country, make sure that you are sufficiently insured.
Don’t forget to have a European Health Insurance card. This blue card guarantees that all medical costs, including certain costs for medication, are covered by your health insurance. It is important to know that all medical authorities need a copy of this card before they can draw up an invoice. Hospitals will settle financial matters directly with your insurance office, whereas ready money is needed to pay a doctor’s visit. Go to a Belgian mutual benefit society with your doctor’s certificate and blue card to get a refund afterwards.
Pharmacies have the same opening hours as other retail shops on weekdays. In larger towns, most of them are also open on Saturday mornings. More details about the night duty can be found on the facade of most pharmacies (open 24 /24h) or via this link (available in French and Dutch): www.apotheek.be
When a person has medical problems, it is common practice in Belgium to consult a general practitioner first. Most general practitioners give consultations in the morning and early evening. Sometimes, only consultation by appointment is possible. You should choose your doctor as carefully you would in your home country. In Belgium you aren’t obliged to register with a GP, but if you incur treatment charges without obtaining a referral from your GP, these may not be reimbursed under some insurance plans, or will be reimbursed at much lower rates.
For further information about family doctors, please click here: www.huisarts.be.
When you suffer urgent health problems and can’t wait until the next work day of your family doctor, dial 1733 to contact the duty doctor. You will be asked to choose your language and to insert the postal code.
Know that around the world paramedics are kindly asking the public to put an “ICE” contact in cell phones. ICE stands for “In Case of Emergency”. By putting in your emergency contact person under ICE (besides the informal naming for this person such as “mom”, “honey” or other) important time is saved for the medical professionals.
The emergency phone number in Belgium is 101 or 112. When calling, mention your name and date of birth.