When it comes to healthcare matters, you will be glad to know that Turkey offers universal health insurance under the name Genel Sağlık Sigortası (GSS), a healthcare scheme created by the Turkish Social Security Institution (SGK) in 2003. According to Article 60 of the Turkish Constitution, every individual is entitled to Turkey's social security and health benefits.
By paying affordable monthly premiums, all residents in Turkey registered with the SGK can receive medical treatment free of charge in state or research hospitals or SGK-contracted private hospitals, depending on the circumstances. Healthcare premiums are dependent on income levels, and for foreign nationals, the rate is determined as 24%.
Residence and Family Permits
To benefit from the Turkish healthcare system, you first need to apply for a social security card from the SGK. And to be able to use for that, you will need to have resided in Turkey for at least a year, i.e., be a holder of a valid residence or family permit.
That means that you won't be able to access the Turkish healthcare system until you have lived in the country for a year, unless your spouse, whether a Turkish citizen or not, already has GSS.
If you are a holder of GSS, the following can also benefit from your state medical insurance:
- Your spouse
- Your children under 18
- Your children under 20 (but must be enrolled at a high school or equivalent)
- Your children under 25 (but must be enrolled at a higher education institution)
- Your mentally disabled children (age is not a determining factor)
*Children under 25 years of age must be unmarried to benefit from their parent's health insurance.
** To benefit from universal healthcare as a spouse or the children of the SGK-registered national, you have to be residing in Turkey.
All residents in Turkey, including foreign nationals with a residence permit, are entitled to benefit from universal health insurance. To qualify, you must not be insured in any country other than Turkey or have a right to benefit from additional health insurance.
After registering with the GSS scheme, you will receive treatment free of charge for the following situations as long as it is at a public/state hospital or research and training hospital.
The SGK covers:
- Infectious diseases
- Work-related accidents and vocational illnesses
- Preventive health services (e.g., drug and alcohol abuse/addiction)
- Extraordinary events (e.g., injuries from war and natural disasters)
- Fertility treatment (only for women younger than 39)
- Cosmetic surgery that is deemed medically necessary
A Word about Dental Care
Your biannual check-ups and more straightforward dental treatments can usually be performed at SGK-contracted hospitals that offer dental care. However, in most cases, you will have to seek out private clinics or hospitals for more complicated treatments, for which you will have to cover the costs.
State vs. Private Insurance
Having the state's health insurance will get you far and wide in Turkey, especially if you have children. However, if you live in a smaller town with fewer hospitals or smaller incapacity, you may have to travel to bigger cities or go the private route. In that case, getting private insurance may be a smart move to help you cover the additional costs.
Even if you have universal health insurance, you can also opt for complementary private insurance to provide you and your child with more coverage.
Warning: If you are receiving a pension from another country, for example, the UK, you will not receive Turkey's state medical insurance. In that case, if you are under 65, the law mandates that you purchase private insurance.
If you need health insurance for yourself or your children, you can check out our policy at Ikamet Sigorta.
Although most hospitals in Turkey will have pediatric doctors or special clinics, two hospitals have made a name for themselves in this field.
The first is Hacettepe University's Children's Hospital in Ankara. Comprising of the Institute of Child Health and the Ihsan Doğramacı Children's Hospital, the hospital provides services in every field of pediatrics, from child and adolescent psychiatry and newborn surgery to pediatric plastic and cardiovascular surgery. It also has a pediatric emergency service that operates around the clock. With over 60,000 patients annually, the hospital is renowned in its field.
The second is Zeynep Kamil Women's and Children's Disease Training and Research Hospital in Istanbul, which provides medical and instructive services to pregnant women and children. With a dedicated intensive care unit (ICU) for children, a range of polyclinics, and expert doctors, the hospital has been operating since 1862.
However, there are also dedicated pediatric units all across the country. Ensure to search online or ask on the phone if you are specifically looking for a specialized pediatric clinic or surgery.
Pharmacies and Medication
As part of the GSS scheme, most medications are covered by the Turkish state. However, you may have to pay a small percentage (no more than 20%) of some prescription drugs and outpatient services.
When it comes to more expensive medications for chronic diseases, you will be pleased to know that the state completely covers most.
For the complete list of all the medicines and services reimbursed or covered by the Turkish state, visit the SGK website.
Online pharmacies are not very common in Turkey, but there are many shops scattered around, especially nearby hospitals and family health centers. Each town also has at least one "pharmacy on duty" (nöbetçi eczane) on weekends and after-hours, which change every week.
Your Rights as a Patient
Under Turkish law, whether you are a Turkish citizen or a foreign national, as a patient, you have:
- The right to benefit from diagnostic treatment, regardless of your physical, mental, and social attributes,
- The right of respect and dignity, which includes being treated respectfully and compassionately that preserves dignity and receiving healthcare in a hygienic environment free from noise and other disturbing factors,
- The right of privacy, which places utmost importance on confidentiality and respecting the patient's privacy during a medical intervention,
- The right to demand information about their health status,
- The right to choose your doctor/other healthcare staff and the healthcare institution and to change it at any stage of the treatment,
- The right to examine and get a copy of your patient file, records and confidentially disclose information,
- The right to reject, suspend or consent to treatment or medical intervention,
- The right to perform your religious practices,
- The right to have visitors and accompany a patient as their designated companion (as advised by the doctor, taking into account the patient's status).
Having a Baby at Turkish Hospitals
If you have social security from the SGK, you can give birth at state hospitals free of charge. However, if you want to choose a private hospital, it would be best to get on a personal insurance plan that will cover you during pregnancy and after birth.
The costs of birth at a private hospital vary greatly and depend primarily on natural childbirth. Pay as little as $300 to $3,000, depending on the hospital, seniority of the doctor, and the city you are in.
Healthcare for Tourists
Following Circular No. 2010/16, foreign tourists who are not covered by any insurance system specifically designed for their purpose of visit can access public or private healthcare services for free in case of emergencies.