Anyone living and/or working in Belgium is
required to sign up for health insurance. This is a legal requirement that
also applies to students. Belgian students are usually insured as
dependants (of their parents). International students are responsible for
organising their own health insurance upon arrival in Belgium. In the
event that you travel from outside the EU, you also need to be covered by
travel insurance for the first month of your stay here to bridge the
period where you organise local insurance coverage.
When (and how) can you obtain health insurance as an international student?
Your registration and the reimbursement of your medical expenses in Belgium depend on your country of origin.
Health insurance and student visa
Providing proof of health insurance for student visa applications: When applying for a student visa you may need to provide proof of health insurance coverage in Belgium for the duration of your studies. This can be obtained by directly contacting one of the health insurance providers below and providing your full name, study details, duration of stay and a copy of your passport.
Are you a resident of an EEA country?
As the resident of an EEA country you will have to obtain a European Health Insurance Card from your own health insurance provider before travelling to Belgium. You should only contact a Belgian health insurance provider if you have incurred medical expenses (when buying medication, seeing a GP, and so on).
If you see a GP or a specialist then you will receive a receipt or 'getuigschrift voor verstrekte hulp'. Take this receipt and your European Health Insurance Card to the health insurance provider. Don't forget to give them your bank account number too. If you only have a foreign bank account then bring the International Bank Account Number (IBAN) and BIC or SWIFT code along, as well as your international passport.
If your foreign health insurer cannot issue a European Health Insurance Card or if you receive a different document then you will probably have to register with a Belgian health insurance provider. In this case, you should contact a health insurance provider as soon as you can after arriving in Belgium. Take along the document, your bank account number and your international passport. They will look into registering you and find out if you have to pay a contribution.
Healthcare during the transition period for British nationals: Your government says that there will be no changes to healthcare access for UK nationals visiting or living in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland before 31 December 2020. You can continue to use your EHIC during this time, as you did before. An EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance. You can consider a travel insurance before you leave your country. You can continue to use your EHIC in the country you were visiting on 31 December 2020 for the duration of your visit to that country. https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/healthcare-abroad/apply-for-a-free-ehic-european-health-insurance-card/
Is your country of origin outside of the EEA?
If you are a non-EEA national and you come to Belgium to study then you need to be registered in the Belgian Registry of Foreign Nationals and Belgian health insurance is mandatory. You will also be required to pay a contribution.
Upon arrival, all non-EEA students should immediately register for local health insurance as a ‘student’. You will need a certificate from the university that states that you have enrolled in a programme (available in SISA). Once you receive your residence permit you need to email a copy of the permit to your health insurance provider, requesting to change your insurance status from 'student' to 'resident'.
Maybe you are entitled to extra benefits through your mutual health insurance company? Be sure to check with your mutual insurance company if you are entitled to "Verhoogde tegemoetkoming". Only students registered as a resident may be entitled to an increased reimbursement ("Verhoogde tegemoetkoming."). They pay less for their health care and they are entitled to supplemented refunds. Enhanced reimbursements is based on your income. There are additional benefits for persons entitled to enhanced reimbursements. A benefit included is that you are excluded from provincial taxes. You can contact your health insurance company to get more information about the right to increased reimbursement.
How much does health insurance cost?
All citizens in Belgium have to pay a membership fee of 99,96 euro per year (2022).
- A student from an EEA country who has a European Health Insurance Card can register with a Belgian health insurance provider without having to pay a supplementary contribution.
- All other students have to pay an additional fee. If you are registered as a 'student' you have to pay 74,72 EUR per quarter (2023). When you are registered as a 'resident' after you receive your residence permit you don't have to pay the additional fee if your yearly income is under a certain amount.
Types of insurance policies
There are 2 types of insurance policies: Compulsory coverage and Voluntary additional insurance.
Compulsory coverage: A standard health insurance policy insures you against the most common healthcare costs, like a visit to the general practitioner. The Belgian government decides what basic health insurance must cover and this is the same for each insurance company.
Voluntary additional insurance: If you take out voluntary additional coverage, you will be insured
against expenses that are not included in the basic health insurance package.
You can take out additional coverage for things such as dental care,
physiotherapy or alternative medicine. Insurance companies differ in what
additional coverage they offer.
The HZIV offers only the basic mandatory insurance and does not provide any additional insurance plans. Registration is free if your legal place of residence is Belgium and you have no official income. If you do have an income, then your contributions will be adjusted to your income. Specific conditions apply to students whose legal place of residence is in another country. You can obtain more information from the HZIV.
Additional hospitalisation insurance?
Many people take out additional hospitalisation insurance in order to limit the risk of expensive hospital bills. You can request such an insurance plan from your health insurer. Private insurers also offer additional hospitalisation insurance plans (such as Ethias)
Which expenses are reimbursed?
The Belgian health insurance system reimburses (Belgian) medical expenses. On average, the health insurance system will reimburse 75% of your expenses. How much is reimbursed mainly depends on the nature of the service provided and on the status of both the insured person and the care provider. For example a visit to the GP could cost up to 30 euro and a visit to the hospital could cost approximatly 400 euro.
In most cases the full amount will not be reimbursed. You will often be required to pay a personal contribution, the so-called 'remgeld' or patient contribution. In principle, the personal contribution amounts to 25% of the expense but this may be higher depending on the type of care provided. Some (essential) medical expenses are reimbursed in full.
Expenses are reimbursed after the fact by the legal health insurance providers on the basis of your receipt or 'getuigschrift van verstrekte hulp'. Attach an identification sticker (which you get when you register with a health insurance provider) to the receipt and take it or send it to your health insurance provider. In case of emergency, you can also go to emergency room at the hospital. However, you should only do this if it is really necessary. At weekends and out of office hours, you can see a duty doctor.
Which information does the prescription include?
The doctor's name - the patient's name - the medication prescribed - the doctor's stamp and address - the date and the doctor's signature. Take your prescription and your SIS or health insurance card with you to the pharmacy.
Proof of identification for health insurance purposes
Your eID will be proof of your identification for the health insurance. If you don't have an eID you will get another electronic pass. You will need the eID at the hospital and when buying medication in a pharmacy. Keep it somewhere safe.
Ambulatory care: GPs, specialists and dentists
In Belgium you are free to choose your own care provider. GPs have their own private practices or may be affiliated with a hospital. Always bring cash with you to pay the doctor. You will be required to pay the doctor's fee immediately at the end of your visit. Very few doctors accept bank card payments.
If you see a GP or require medical care, in principle you first have to pay the total amount in exchange for a doctor's certificate or receipt. You then take this document to your health insurance provider, who will reimburse part of your expenses. Please note that some care providers negotiate fixed tariff agreements with the health insurance providers (= geconventioneerde artsen).
The GPs, dentists and other doctors who sign these tariff agreements are bound by this convention. They commit to charging the agreed tariffs unless you, the patient, have particular requirements, i.e. if you want a special consultation. There are also doctors who do not sign these agreements (= niet-geconventioneerde zorgverstrekkers). They are free to set their own fees, which are often higher than the official tariffs.
What's more, GPs and dentists can also choose to be 'gedeeltelijk geconventioneerd', meaning that they only adhere to the provisions of the agreement at certain times and on certain days and/or in certain locations. We recommend that you enquire about the status of your care provider beforehand to avoid unpleasant surprises when you receive your bill.
The rules are different in a pharmacy. In a pharmacy you will not be required to pay the full amount when you have a prescription from a certified doctor. Instead, the pharmacy will immediately apply the reimbursement tariffs (third-party payer system). All you have to do is pay your own contribution. The legal health insurance system reimburses some medications. Ask your GP for more information. To have these medications reimbursed you will need a doctor's prescription and a valid eID card or another electronic pass.
Which expenses are not reimbursed by the legal health insurance system?
The legal health insurance system does not reimburse all medical expenses. Below is an overview of the most frequently incurred expenses: all supplements charged by care providers who have not signed an agreement with the health insurance providers, supplementary expenses for a single or double room during a hospital stay, ambulance transport and so on. Some health insurance providers will reimburse some of these expenses depending on the additional services and benefits they provide. Ask your health insurance provider for more information.
Hospitalisation (and outpatient treatment)
Your personal contribution to hospitalisation expenses is primarily influenced by the hospital and the type of room you choose. Staying in a single room is significantly more expensive than staying on a ward. Enquire beforehand and always bring your eID card with you. This will enable the hospital to invoice your health insurance provider directly and you will only have to pay your own contribution.
Are you from the Netherlands?
If you go abroad to study, you can continue to pay for your basic health insurance in the Netherlands as long as you do not work on the side and are under 30. It doesn't matter how long you stay abroad for your studies - nothing changes.
The EHIC (= European Health Insurance Card) will provide sufficient coverage. If you decide to work on the side, however, the situation changes. You will then be considered economically active abroad and as a result you will lose your right to basic health insurance coverage in the Netherlands.
How is your health insurance organised?
1. You are insured as a dependant (of your parents) under the following conditions:
- You are under 25.
- Your parents are entitled to a family allowance.
2. Are you over 25 or no longer registered as a dependant of your parents?
Co-habiting or married students may be registered as a ‘dependant’ of a partner who has health insurance. If you still live with your parents (or by yourself), then you will have to organise your own health insurance. You can do this as a student or a resident.
There are two ways to get health insurance:
- You can register either with one of the five health insurance providers ('ziekenfondsen' or 'mutualiteiten' or with the Hulpkas voor Ziekte- en Invaliditeitsverzekering (HZIV), a public social insurance institution.
Health care insurance?
Anyone over 25 living in Flanders (except international students), or not living in Belgium but subject to Belgian social security, must register with a health care fund ('zorgkas'). The Government of Flanders recognises seven certified health care funds. All of the health insurance providers have a certified health care fund.
‘Living’ in Flanders means being registered in the National Registry or in the Register of Foreign Nationals for a city or municipality in Flanders. If you are insured by HZIV then you cannot register with a health insurance provider. In that case, you will have to take out health care insurance with the Vlaamse Zorgkas.
Contact one of the health insurance providers or the HZIV. You are free to choose your own health insurer. They all work according to the same rules. The contribution you pay may vary slightly but the differences are minimal.
- Nationalestraat 111, 2000 Antwerp (Christelijke Mutualiteit)
- Rubenslei 4, 2018 Antwerp (Partena)
- Minderbroedersrui 19, 2000 Antwerpen (Liberale Mutualiteit)
- Oude Vaartplaats 50, 2000 Antwerp (Onafhankelijk Ziekenfonds)
- Nationalestraat 130a, 2000 Antwerp (Socialistische Mutualiteit ‘De Voorzorg’)