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I’m going on holiday! (But do I have health insurance there?)

18:49 20/06/2018
So you’re off to the Himalayas or the beaches of southern Europe. Do you know what to do if you tumble down a ravine or get stung by a jellyfish?

There are few barriers to getting health insurance coverage in Belgium; it is thankfully one of the easier tasks expats have to take on when moving here. One simply chooses a mutuality, perhaps compares a few, and buys basic coverage, which is inexpensive.

But expats have the tendency to be travellers … even if they live in Belgium, they will often travel outside of it, whether it’s to their home country, a quick city visit, a lengthy summer holiday or a business trip. And what if you get sick or hurt there?

It’s a scenario that’s not nice to consider, but you’ll feel better crossing borders if you at least know that you’ll be covered should anything happen. However, the situation can become a bit complex depending on where you are going and what kind of care you’re getting. And this is where not all mutualities are created equal.

The good news is that if you are covered by a Belgian mutuality and you are travelling to any member state of the EU – or to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland – you are guaranteed medical care. This includes temporary care until follow-up can be done back home or hospitalisation should that be necessary.

The Partena advantage

All you need to get the necessary care is a European Health Insurance Card (Carte Européenne d’assurance maladie/Europese Ziekteverzekeringskaart), which is easy to obtain from your mutuality. If you don’t aleady have one, just visit their website to request one.

With the card, you will pay the same costs as the locals for medical care in any of the 32 countries that accepts the card. Much of these costs will be reimbursed by your mutuality on your return to Belgium.

Some countries outside of these 32 also have reciprocal health-care agreements with Belgium, such as Australia and New Zealand. In this case the EHIC card can be helpful, as it contains your basic information.

But once you get out of these jurisdictions, are you still covered? The answer is yes, but it’s best to check with your mutuality regarding how the system works. Partena, for instance, offers packages specially designed to cover you outside of the EHIC countries.

It can also help you out if you want to, say, go hang-gliding in Hungary or rock climbing in Spain. Because – though this isn’t widely known – many mutualities have clauses regarding extreme sports.

Partena, which has a special expat division, also has a helpline in English – a big load off your mind should advice be needed in case of injury or illness while abroad. Their staff includes experts on international agreements with countries all over the world.

In fact, even if you think you don’t need their help, it’s never a bad idea to check with your mutuality when getting care in another country. There have been reports of hospitals getting expats to sign documents putting them in private sections, when the mutuality requires them to use public services in order to get reimbursed. A call to Partena’s multi-lingual staff in this case can save you thousands of euros.

Like with any travel plans, the trick is to be prepared. A little information can go a long way.

Written by The Bulletin