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Health insurance cover in Belgium explained
To benefit from the healthcare system in Belgium, you have to join a health insurance fund (mutuelle/ ziekenfonds). You can choose from 20 Christian, 13 socialist, 10 liberal, seven independent and seven neutral funds from all over Belgium. Contributions are withheld from your income if you are a salaried worker and the self-employed need to register with the fund of their choice.
All funds charge the same amount, as they act as intermediaries between the National Institute for Sickness and Invalidity Insurance and its members. This state system provides basic healthcare reimbursements for hospital, doctor and chemist costs – for example, 50 to 75% of the cost of a consultation with a doctor or specialist. While hospital and pharmacy expenses are generally deducted when you pay, doctors’ fees usually need to be paid in full and the invoice sent to the insurance fund for reimbursement.
When you register, there is a six-month waiting period before you can be reimbursed, though people who are entitled to benefits in another EU country are covered during this period.
Additional insurance covers repayments for non-urgent care in hospital, and the costs of glasses, dental care, vaccinations and sports clubs. Alternative or complementary treatments such as homeopathy, acupuncture, osteopathy and chiropractic are also recognised as partially reimbursable if the practitioner is a qualified doctor. The content and cost of this insurance varies for each fund. You can also choose complementary insurance from one of the private companies that come under the umbrella organisation Assuralia.
The healthcare system covers benefits if you are not able to work due to an accident, illness or childbirth. To qualify you need to inform your employer and deliver a certificate to your fund before the end of the employer-paid period of sick pay. If you’re off work for more than a year, this benefit is called invalidity and the money that you receive is tied to your family circumstances.