Expats thinking of moving to Hungary have a lot to look forward to: thermal baths, incredible cuisine,

and a low cost of living. And to top it off, expats also have access to free healthcare in Hungary – what more could you ask for?

But before you head to the Heart of Europe, it’s worth figuring out which healthcare options will work best for you.

Think private health insurance will be right for you during this time? Just check out our list of recommended healthcare providers.

From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.

Hungarian healthcare: key statistics

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    % of people covered by state insurance
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    % of people using private health facilities
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    World healthcare ranking /100
Budapest parliament at sunset

The Hungarian Parliament Building – an architectural gem – in front of a bold sunset

How does Hungary’s healthcare system work?

Hungary provides universal healthcare for its citizens, which is funded by taxes and the National Health Insurance Fund (HIF) – also known as Országos Egészségbiztosítási Pénztár (OEP).

The HIF is a compulsory insurance scheme for all working citizens, primarily funded through payroll contributions, taxation, and copayments on some services.

Hungary’s universal healthcare is free for anyone working or studying in the country, all children under the age of 16, people over the age of 60, and pregnant women.

So, what sort of medical services are covered on the state health insurance? We’ve listed the key things below:

  • Dental treatment – Free for citizens up to the age of 18, students, people aged 60 years or older, and pregnant women
  • Early detection and preventive testing – These tests are only covered in the HIF for people with specific conditions or of a certain age group
  • Treatment at home – All medical professionals who have signed a contract with the National Institute of Health Fund Management are able to treat patients in their homes
  • Outpatient care – This includes things like GP visits and medicines
  • Inpatient care – Patients are charged a daily flat rate for specific treatments, such as the diagnostic exams related to their illness, and care in a convalescent home. The HIF also covers a partial cost of all essential procedures
  • Medical appliances – These must be prescribed by a doctor to qualify for reimbursement

Is healthcare free in Hungary?

Most healthcare services in Hungary are free, but citizens need to pay monthly contributions for state insurance. In some circumstances, people also need to pay copayments for various services, such as medicines, dental care, rehabilitation services, and medical equipment.

Health insurance contributions automatically come out of employees’ wages through the payroll system. This usually works out to be around 3% of the employee’s income, with employers covering an additional 15%. 

As for people who are unable to work? The joint effort of employers and employees putting money into the HIF means there are enough funds to support people who are currently unemployed, disabled, or retired.

There are some restrictions on which services are free through the HIF, and who is entitled to them. For example, if the treatment is not prescribed by a physician, or is not provided through the normal hospital system, then the patient will need to pay a fee.

Hospital services are free of charge for all nationals, but if a patient chooses to seek treatment at a different hospital than the one they’ve been referred to, they’ll be charged a fee.

When it comes to dental care, the National Institute of Health Insurance Fund Management states that only emergency care is covered by the social security system, unless the patient is under 18, a student, aged 60 years or older, or pregnant.

Lake Balaton in Hungary

Some of Tihany's medieval buildings, stood next to Lake Balaton – Europe’s largest freshwater lake

Quality of healthcare in Hungary

Although healthcare in Hungary is now available for all citizens, there’s still a lot of room for improvement in terms of the quality of care. In 2019, the Lancet’s worldwide effective healthcare coverage index gave Hungary a score of 72 out of 100 points – quite a bit lower than the US’s score of 82.

The Hungarian public healthcare system suffers from the same problem as many other low-cost healthcare systems – long waiting times. This is particularly bad for people waiting for non-essential surgeries, and has worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hungarian doctors also tend to be underpaid, which means many end up working at private hospitals.

According to the OECD, as of 2019, there were 3.5 doctors per 1,000 people, which is just below the EU average of 3.9. And although the number of nurses has grown over the past few years, there are currently only 6.6 nurses per 1,000 people – well below the EU average of 8.4.

Despite staff shortages, just 1% of the population reported unmet medical needs in 2019, compared to 1.7% across the EU as a whole. But like many countries around the globe, COVID-19 has hit Hungary’s healthcare system hard, leading to serious health procedures being canceled or pushed back by months.

Healthcare in Hungary for foreigners

Anyone covered by the state insurance is eligible for free (or discounted) healthcare – including expats working or studying in Hungary.

Once your work permit is in order, you can apply for a health insurance card – also known as the Társadalombiztosítási Azonosító Jet (TAJ) Card – at your local health authority.

Any European expats moving to Hungary will also be able to flash their EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) for free healthcare coverage.

Do I need health insurance in Hungary?

Yes, Hungary's National Health Insurance Fund (HIF) is compulsory for everyone working in the country. However, given the pressure on the public system – especially after COVID-19 – private medical cover might be more suitable for some expats.

Private health insurance will cover basic medical help, clinic visits, and emergency services – all with better facilities and shorter wait times than public healthcare. And, if you’re lucky, you might bag yourself a job in Hungary that offers employees access to private insurance.

A recent study found that 39% of Hungarians use private healthcare facilities – with younger age groups using it the most, surprisingly.

Think private health insurance will be right for you on your move abroad? Check out our list of recommended healthcare providers. From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.

Sunset in Hungary

A hazy sunset in Debrecen – a city that has been Hungary’s capital various times over the past century

Benefits of private medical cover in Hungary

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

On-demand access to a network of private hospitals

  • Highly trained medical staff
  • Shorter waiting times
  • Access to better facilities and more up-to-date equipment
  • Fewer language barriers
  • Better access to healthcare in remote areas

If you go down the private healthcare route, bear in mind that most facilities require proof of insurance before treatment, and you’ll also need to make cash payments. 

How much does health insurance cost in Hungary?

You can expect to pay an average of $3,501 for an individual IPMI premium in Hungary, and roughly $9,348 for a family premium.

However, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to health insurance costs, which is why the price tag will fluctuate so much. It depends 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 Hungary?)
  • 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 Hungary? Check out our list of recommended healthcare providers.

From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.

Advice for expats moving to Hungary

Now that you’re up to date on Hungary’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 Hungary has to offer.

To find out more, check out our article on Moving to Hungary.