The Ministry of Health (Sağlik Başkanlığı) oversees all health services in Turkey, while the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (Çalışma ve Sosyal Güvenlik Bakanlığı) is responsible for labour and social security affairs in Turkey.
In order to benefit from the Turkish Social Security System, residents in Turkey must enrol with the Turkish Social Security Fund (Sosyal Guvenlik Kurumu – SGK). It is possible to access free or low-cost healthcare, although the standard varies considerably from region to region. Social security offices are found throughout the country.
The Social Security System
There are three main departments in the social security system:
30-day premiums are required to benefit from the services they provide, and there must be no previous debts from unpaid premiums. Exceptions are children younger than 18 and people with special medical needs.
Social security contributions
Paying into the state-run social security scheme (Sosyal Sigortalar Kurumu – SSK) is compulsory for all employees. A percentage of employees' pre-tax earnings are paid into the scheme. Employers and employees both pay premiums; however, these vary according to the risk involved in a job. The employee contributes approximately 15%, which is deducted from their salary; the employer contributes approximately 21.5%.
Agricultural workers, the self-employed, and people receiving benefits from other organisations in the system are not liable for SSK benefits.
Those contributing to the social insurance scheme and their spouse and children are insured for work injuries and work-related illnesses, medical care, illness, disability, and pregnancy care.
Social security for the self-employed
Social security for the self-employed (Bağ-kur) covers people such as craftsmen, artisans and owners of small businesses, technical and professional people who are registered with a chamber or professional association, shareholders of companies other than co-operatives, joint stock companies, and agricultural workers who are self-employed.
Workers can choose to make a contribution on a scale of one to 24: one is the lowest premium payment level.
Bağ-kur does not have its own health facilities, but instead has contracts with other public providers, including SSK hospitals. Outpatient and inpatient diagnosis and treatment are covered. Travelling expenses to other hospitals out of town may also be covered.
Turkey has a comprehensive public healthcare system, which is available to foreign residents paying social security contributions. However, the system lacks funding and many hospitals are overcrowded. Many doctors working under the state health system also work in the private sector, where waiting lists may be shorter.
All residents in Turkey are issued with a Turkish Identification Number (TIN), which is also their social security number (Sosyal Güvenlik Numarası – SGN). Employers request a social security number from the Interior Ministry’s Population Registry Directorate for their foreign employees who do not have a TIN.
Universal Health Insurance
A system of Universal Health Insurance (Genel Sağlık Sigortası) is currently being implemented in Turkey (as of February 2012). Most foreigners with a residence permit and living permanently for at least one year in Turkey, and who do not hold health insurance under the legislation of their home country, must make compulsory monthly payments into the scheme. For some foreigners this scheme is voluntary, but other nationalities have to pay into this scheme or pay a fine. For most foreigners, this entitles them to unlimited healthcare for approximately 200TL a month. Payments into the scheme are made monthly at a bank.
Treatments covered by health insurance
Residents with a social security number can get medical care free of charge from contracted hospitals. In the following cases, medical treatment is granted without conditions:
The following treatments are not covered by social security in Turkey:
Most hospitals which are contracted to social security do not offer dental care. Patients are transferred to private dentists and pay for services themselves.
The private health sector in Turkey is growing rapidly, and many expatriates choose to have private cover, as waiting lists for treatments are shorter, and the standard of healthcare in private hospitals is generally higher. Supplementary healthcare insurance with private health insurers is not obligatory. Many employers of expatriates provide supplementary private health insurance cover for their employees.
The maximum age at which a person can enter the private health sector in Turkey is 65.
Most banks and insurance companies offer various pension and health insurance packages. Insurance companies provide a list of hospitals and doctors where people insured with them are covered for treatment.
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