While most vacationers and short-term expats will keep their home country health insurance, or go for travel health insurance (a good explanation of those choices here, an overview of travel medical insurance here, and reviews of travel insurance providers here), longer-term expats can choose to either keep their home/international provider, or switch over to SGK, the Turkish National Health Insurance. If you decide to switch over, the later is usually far less expensive and makes hospital visits a breeze.
What is SGK?
According to the Turkish Constitution, “Every individual is entitled to social security. The State takes the necessary measures to create this confidence and organizes the organization”. What this means today is that the Ministry of Health provides health care, organizes preventive health services, operates state hospitals, supervises private hospitals, and regulates the production and prices of pharmaceutical drugs nationwide. Every Turkish citizen is entitled to national health coverage – as is almost every foreign resident in the country. To receive a residence permit, you are also required to sign up for medical insurance, either state or otherwise.
SGK (Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu, Social Security Institution) is state-provided health insurance for the entire family including children up to the age of 18 and, depending on the circumstances, possibly other dependents. The family-based fee is around $100 per month.* Once you enroll in SGK, you must keep the insurance for as long as you keep your residency in Turkey. For a longer explanation aimed at UK citizens, please see this post. SGK website here.
*Health insurance is in TL, and thus USD cost will depend on exchange rate.
What Does SGK Cover?
First, emergency treatment at state hospitals in Turkey is free. Beyond that, SGK covers checkups and most treatment. Once you enroll in SGK and begin paying the monthly premium you are covered, and will receive a health insurance ID card to present at any state hospital for treatment free of charge. Non-cosmetic dental and optical treatments are also covered under SGK.
Treatment for certain pre-exisiting conditions is not covered under SGK (a full list here). If you have one of the pre-exisiting conditions listed, you may want to opt for private health insurance either in place of, or in addition to, SGK.
Where Can I Use My SK/SGK Health Insurance?
At [almost] any hospital in Turkey. You will receive free checkups and emergency care at all public hospitals, free or deeply discounted rates on all other services, and deep discounts on services in private hospitals, including international hospitals (like Soke International Hospital and the Acibadem chain of hospitals). However, certain international hospitals, such as the American Hospital in Istanbul either do not accept SGK or require a higher co-pay.
Am I Eligible?
To be eligible for SGK you must have in hand a Turkish residence permit and have been resident in Turley for 12 months. Eligibility is not dependent on age. Every neighborhood or town will have its own SGK office; to determine whether you are eligible and how you should proceed, visit your local SGK office.
How do I Sign Up?
How you go about signing up for SGK will depend on whether or not you currently hold a Turkish residence permit. If you already hold a residence permit, you may need only to go to the SGK office to verify requirements, get a physical examination, and submit your application.
If, however, you do not yet have a residence permit and will be applying for a residence permit and SGK together, follow the steps below:
- Visit the local SGK office, and verify exactly what steps you should take according to your situation. Certain rules and regulations may vary by province.
- Get a tax number (How to get one here)
- Get a physical examination at either a private or state hospital.
- Return to the SGK office and submit an initial application for SGK insurance. For this you should have in hand: your new tax number, your passport, and proof of address in Turkey
- Go to the local Foreigners’ Bureau with your copy of the SGK application. Submit this along with your residence permit application package. You will receive a receipt from the foreigners’ bureau certifying that you have applied for your residence permit.
- Return again to the SGK office with the receipt obtained from the Foreigners’ Bureau, and there complete the SGK application process.
What if I Want Private Health Insurance? First, talk with your home insurance company to see exactly what they will cover overseas. If you are not eligible for SGK, but often reside in Turkey, you may choose to keep your home country insurance, take out travel medical insurance, or go with a private Turkish medical insurance, like that offered through the Acıbadem hospitals or Allianz, which also has a string of affiliated hospitals throughout the country.