Healthcare in Greece consists of a universal health care system provided through national health insurance, and private health care.
Healthcare in Greece is provided by the National Healthcare Service, or ESY (Greek: Εθνικό Σύστημα Υγείας, ΕΣΥ).
In July 2011, changes were made to the Greek healthcare system in accordance with austerity measures. Unemployed Greeks were entitled to healthcare from national health insurance for a maximum of a year, and after that period, healthcare was no longer universal and patients had to pay for their own treatment. Austerity measures also resulted in citizens being forced to contribute more towards the cost of their medications. As a result, many free clinics funded by private donations sprang up, and although officially illegal, were allowed to remain in operation. In 2016, the Greek government voted to extend health coverage to uninsured people who are registered as unemployed and refugees from June 1 on, with those earning less than 2,400 euro a year entitled to free healthcare, with the threshold rising for families according to how many children they have.
In 2009 the hospital bed to 10,000 population ratio in the country was 48, above countries such as the United Kingdom (39), Spain (34) and Italy (39), but considerably below countries such as France (72) and Germany (83). On 1 July 2011, the Ministry for Health and Social Solidarity announced its intention to cut back the number of beds and hospitals in the country from 131 hospitals with 35,000 beds to 83 hospitals with 33,000 beds.
Social security insurance is compulsory in Greece. Greek social security benefits are available to Greek and EU citizens. Bilateral agreements have also been signed with the following non EU countries: Switzerland, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay, Egypt, Libya and Poland.
There are many social security organisations in Greece, but IKA (Idryma Kinonikon Asfaliseon), OGA (Organismos Georgikon Asfaliseon) and OAEE (Organismos Asfalisis Elefteron Epogelmaton) are the primary ones. IKA provides insurance for employees, OGA for the rural sector and OAEE is the insurance for the self-employed. Other insurance funds exist for civil servants and military personnel, as well as for lawyers, bank employees and public utility personnel.
Social security benefits are only available to those who are registered and contributing to the social security system, in the form of contributions paid by the employer and the employee, or by the individual if they are a self-employed worker or business owner.
Every person insured by a Greek Social Security Organisation is entitled to a European Health Insurance Card – EHIC (/evropaïki karta asfalisis asthenias).
Social Security Number – the AMKA
Every individual (employer, employee, pensioner, dependent family member, child) living in Greece needs an AMKA or social security number () in order to benefit from social security and to obtain a health booklet.
Applications for the AMKA number can be made at the local KEP office (Citizens Service Centre). The following documents are required:
- Passport or ID card
- Civil status certificate (), officially translated into Greek or birth certificate (for dependent children)
An AMKA card will be issued.
- AMKA (in Greek)
Tel: 111 31
IKA Social Security Benefits
Depending on the insured person’s personal situation they may receive benefits and allowances for the following:
- Maternity and birth
- Sickness or accident
- Funeral allowance