Medical care in Hungary is of a good standard; medical staff are highly skilled and care facilities are relatively well supplied. The Hungarian health service has experienced all-embracing privatisation in recent years. It is now funded through taxation and by the Health Insurance Fund (HIF) known in Hungarian as the Országos Egészségbiztosítási Pénztár or OEP.
The Public Healthcare System
Employees must pay a mandatory 3 percent of their income into the Health Insurance Fund. Their employers pay 15 percent of each employee’s gross wage as well as a single tax, which is designated as a healthcare contribution tax. Employees’ contributions are deducted directly from their salaries. Employees must also pay income tax both locally and nationally and this contributes towards the financing of the health service. Some companies offer private medical cover as a benefit of working for them. Eighteen percent of revenue comes from patients out-of-pocket patents for services like prescription medicines, dental treatment and rehabilitation.
All Hungarian citizens are covered by the state fund, regardless of whether they are employed or not. The government pays the contributions for specific vulnerable groups like pensioners, the disabled and the unemployed.
Registered foreigners who do not work and thus do not contribute to the state fund can only obtain emergency healthcare free of charge. This includes basic services, outpatient services and in-patient treatment. Those foreign citizens who work and contribute to the fund are entitled to the same healthcare benefits as Hungarians.
The HIF provides every member of the fund with a social security card known as a TB kártya. You must present this card each time you attend a doctor’s surgery or hospital.
Citizens must pay cash fees to receive a hospital consultation or if they are admitted as an inpatient. The fee charged is in the region of 300 HUF.
Visits to doctors and dentists also incur fees, which are set detailed in advance. The patient may obtain a receipt on request. A consultation with a doctor is free as is ambulance transportation to and from hospital.
Prescription medicine is subsidised up to 100 percent depending on the drug prescribed. The sum you pay is not refundable.
Private healthcare runs alongside the state system. Private clinics are very well equipped with the latest technology, but are expensive. Many tourists come to Hungary to take advantage of the low cost of cosmetic treatments. Many private clinics need to see proof of insurance before giving treatment and patients are required to pay in cash as soon as their treatment is completed.
Doctors are known as orvos and are listed in the phone directory. They are located in all towns and cities and some rural areas. You should make an appointment to see a doctor, as there are long waits otherwise. You are not able to choose your doctor in Hungary and must attend a local doctor appointed by the HIF. To obtain treatment at free and subsidised prices, you must visit a state contracted doctor. They usually display signs in their surgeries, which say a társadalombiztosítás egészségügyi szolgáltatásaira szerződött szolgáltató.
Doctors are responsible for issuing prescriptions and for referring patients to specialists and hospitals.
Each hospital, clinic and doctor in Hungary must register with the government health department, who approves their membership and facilities. Hospitals are known as Kórház and are recognised through a white 'H' on a blue background. You can find names and addresses in the yellow pages telephone directory under the title Kórházak és Klinikák. Unless you are involved in a medical emergency, you must be referred to hospital by a doctor. Hospital medical care is free of charge unless you do not have a doctor’s referral, you do not attend the hospital stated by your doctor, you ask for additional medicine not listed on your prescription, or you ask for a private room.
Hungarian law dictates that any health facility, including private clinics, must provide emergency treatment regardless of whether they have insurance or not. State emergency facilities are located in all main hospitals and operate 24 hours a day.
Dental treatment in Hungary is of a very high standard and in comparison with Western Europe, it is cheap. Many foreigners come to Hungary to take advantage of the low prices. If you are covered by the state insurance fund, you are entitled to free routine examinations and in severe cases, treatment. Otherwise, you have to pay additional charges for all of your treatment beyond this. Dental care provided by hospitals is cheaper than that performed in dental surgeries.
Hungary has many well-qualified opticians, many foreigners come here to take advantage of the low cost eye tests, laser surgery, and glasses are all easily available.
Pharmacies are called Gyógyszertár, Patika in Hungarian and have either a green illuminated cross or a coiled snake sign outside. There are many pharmacies in Hungary and they all stock a wide selection of medicines. Chemists are able to give free advice about over-the-counter medicines, many of which can be bought at supermarkets or petrol stations. Some pharmacies are open 24 hours, but you have to ring a bell outside of normal working hours and pay a fee of 100-200 HUF. Some chemists specialise in herbal remedies.