Thinking about swapping rainy skies for sun-soaked beaches? There’s a lot you can do as an expat in Greece: meet friendly locals, experience cultural traditions firsthand – such as Name Day celebrations and classic Apokries (carnivals) explore tasty Greek food, and learn about the country’s quirky superstitions.

And, with around 1.2 million migrants currently living in this beautiful country, you’ll have a great expat community to slot into.

But before you pack your bags, it's important to look into the healthcare options available. Is Greek healthcare similar to UK healthcare? Will it end up draining your bank account? What exactly does it cover? Luckily, we have all the answers waiting for you further down this page.

If you've already decided that private health insurance is right for you, we recommend Cigna. Helping more than 95 million customers all over the world, Cigna has the experience and expertise to get you just the right cover.

Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.

Greek healthcare: key statistics

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    Average life expectancy
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Santorini white houses at sunset

A pastel sunset washes over the island of Santorini 

How does Greece’s healthcare system work?

Greece’s National Health System – also known as ESY, Εθνικό Σύστημα Υγείας, or ΕΣΥ – aims to provide free healthcare services for all residents.

The system has a mix of public and private healthcare providers, which are broadly divided into primary, secondary, and tertiary tiers of delivery. Although Greek healthcare is mostly free, all working residents must pay compulsory social insurance contributions – with around 15% of the Greek population also paying private health insurance cover.

There are two levels of state health cover for Greek residents, which we’ve outlined below.

 

EOPYY

Also known as EFKA/IKA, EOPYY is the Greek National Health Insurance body.

Those who are covered under EOPYY can register with a GP (known as παθολόγος or pathologos in Greek), visit specialists, and receive free hospital and outpatient care, as long as the facilities are all registered with EOPYY.

Under this scheme, residents can also receive free or subsidised tests, scans, and prescriptions in any state or private centres that work with EOPYY.

 

Who is EOPYY for?

Workers and self-employed people (including expats) who are paying Greek National Insurance contributions.

 

AMKA

AMKA is a Greek National Insurance Number. Before residents can register with EOPYY, they have to get an AMKA number.

If you are not entitled to EOPYY cover, your AMKA number alone can still provide you with basic free treatment in state hospitals and health centres. You can also get subsidised medicines, as well as free scans and tests at state hospitals.

 

Who is AMKA for?

Long-term residents (including expats that have lived in Greece for more than three months), workers or self-employed people, EU state pensioners, and all dependent members of their families.

For emergency services in Greece, dial 166. Operators may not be able to speak English, so expats can also dial the general European emergency number 112 for an English responder.

Is healthcare free in Greece?

Public healthcare is mostly free in Greece.

If you’re covered by EOPYY, you can see an EOPYY-registered doctor either for free or at a reduced cost. Plus, if you want to get seen at a private clinic, you can visit one that’s contracted with EOPYY, and part of the cost will be covered.

Treatment in a state hospital will also be free – but only if you’ve been referred by an EOPYY doctor or health centre.

Prescriptions, on the other hand, will cost you – although not very much. People covered by EOPYY will only have to pay around 25% of the total cost of prescriptions, depending on the medicine. In some circumstances, you might be able to get free prescriptions – for example, if you have an ongoing chronic illness.

To give you an idea of the typical prices for public and private care in Greece, check out the table below:

ExpensePublic healthcare costPrivate healthcare cost
Doctor’s visit€0 – €10€60 – €150*
Hip replacementFree €4,000 – €12,000*
Mammogram€0 – €5 €65 – €100*

Data from International Living

*These figures are the total cost – the individual only pays a portion of this, based on their specific coverage.

Quality of healthcare in Greece

Since 2000, Greece’s healthcare system has had a huge makeover, despite the country’s economic crisis. Various initiatives have been introduced to improve the public sector, including standardising the health benefits package and re-establishing universal coverage – and it’s certainly paid off.

In 2019, the Lancet’s worldwide effective healthcare coverage index gave Greece an impressive score of 80 out of 100 points.

Life expectancy is often a good way to judge a country’s healthcare system, and with an average life expectancy of almost 82 years – two years above the OECD average of 80 years – Greece’s population is doing pretty well.

On top of this, Greece is actually 14th in the OECD’s top-ranking countries for health, with a score of 8.2 – much higher than the UK’s score of 7.7, which puts it in 21st place.

In addition to its good standard of GP care, Greece’s public ambulance services (known as EKAV) are typically very good and are widely available in larger cities.

However, one of the biggest downsides to Greek public healthcare is that access to those services may be restricted on some islands and in rural areas. For people in more remote areas, private ambulances, EKAV helicopters, and taxis are usually better alternatives to state ambulances.

Most medical staff in the system usually speak English, which is great for new expats – however, again, this will be less common in more isolated areas.

What’s more, many public facilities are currently facing a lack of general practitioners, since roughly 75% of doctors in the Greek healthcare system are specialists.

And, over time, the number of hospital beds has been declining – meaning waiting times are on the rise.

Data from Statista

A view of Athens in Greece

The Acropolis of Athens looking over the city at sunset

Healthcare in Greece for foreigners

Expats living in Greece for longer than three months can access free or affordable public healthcare in the same way that Greek citizens do.

To be eligible for an AMKA number (and subsequently for access to EOPYY), expats will need to pay social insurance contributions, and they will then be able to access public facilities.

Any foreigners wanting to stay in Greece for less than three months can use an EHIC or GHIC to access public healthcare.

Although foreigners are entitled to state healthcare in Greece, 15% of Greek residents choose to use private medical insurance to make sure they get the best care. For expats, too, private insurance means access to the best facilities that Greece has to offer, without the long waiting times.

If private health insurance sounds like a great option for you, why not start building a customised plan with a free quote, to make sure you get the best deal for you and your family?

Pharmacies are normally marked by a green cross against a white background, and generally open from 8am to 1pm and 5pm to 8:30pm.

Do I need health insurance in Greece?

Yes – all employed and self-employed Greek residents need to make compulsory social insurance contributions. 

However, as it stands, 15% of Greeks also take out private health insurance to make sure they’re covered for any unexpected medical expenses not included in the public health scheme.

Benefits of private medical cover in Greece

Private healthcare can offer a few extra benefits that Greece’s state healthcare can’t, including:

  • On-demand access to a network of private hospitals (in addition to public ones)
  • Shorter waiting times
  • Access to better facilities and more up-to-date equipment
  • Fewer language barriers in remote areas
  • Better access to healthcare in remote areas

How much does health insurance cost in Greece?

Although Greece’s healthcare system covers most medical bills, you’ll still need to pay for some services and prescriptions. For expats with ongoing health issues, private health insurance is a great way to make sure you can cover these costs.

The average cost for an international private medical policy in Greece is £3,039 a year, whereas a family package will set you back roughly £8,947.

Unfortunately, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to health insurance costs, which is why the price tag will fluctuate so much, depending on a range of factors including:

  • The provider you choose
  • Your level of coverage
  • Your age (the higher, the more expensive)
  • The area of cover (i.e. are other areas required in the coverage, in addition to Greece?)
  • Whether you have any pre-existing conditions

Want a better idea of how much it’ll cost you to get covered for private medical insurance in Greece? Get a free quote from Cigna today by building yourself a customised plan.

Advice for expats moving to Greece

Now you’re up to date on Greece’s healthcare system, you can figure out whether public or private care will work best for you and your family. Once you’ve made this choice, you can look forward to all that Greece has to offer.

To find out more, check out some of our other articles about Greece: