Health insurance in Belgium is a part of the Belgian social security system and to benefit you must join a health insurance fund mutuelle (mutualité) or ziekenfonds (mutualiteit). Dependent family members will also be typically automatically covered by the same fund.
Once registered with a health insurance fund, it will deal with reimbursing your medical costs. To take you on, the fund will need written certification of employment signed by your employer. Once you are employed by a Belgian company your contributions and those of your employer will be automatically deducted from your salary by the ONSS (National Office of Social Security).
Although most funds are affiliated to a religious or political institution, there is no real difference because reimbursement rates are fixed by the government. However, you are free to choose one that best suits your needs, for example if one provides more cover for alternative medicine or has multilingual services.
Belgian state health insurance funds do not, however, typically cover 100 percent of your bills. These funds will reimburse up to 75 percent for a typical doctor or specialist appointment in Belgium, depending on your circumstances. Consequently, some people opt for additional private insurance (complémentaire) to get a full refund, or to cover dental care in Belgium. You can compare Belgian health insurance quotes.
You can also get a refund on certain medicine but check with your doctor if what is prescribed is refundable. Pharmacies maintain a state-advised list.
Once insured you get a standardised credit-card style healthcare card (SIS, or now eID), which you will need in pharmacies and hospitals. You also get a sheet of stickers (vignettes), which you need to attach to a doctor’s bill to get a refund.
Whether you own or rent your property, you will typically need to get home insurance. Although is it not compulsory, it is regularly obligated by agencies, landlords and mortgage lenders.
Almost all rental agreements in Belgium require the tenant to take out insurance on the rented property, sometimes within 30 days of signing a lease. This is because the Belgian Civil Code holds the tenant responsible for any damage to the building unless proof can be given that it was not his/her fault. If you are renting, take your lease with you when you arrange your insurance. You are responsible for providing coverage against third-party liability but the owner is required to have a policy covering the property against earthquakes, lightning, fire, etc. If you are in furnished accommodation, you are generally required to take out insurance against damage to the landlord’s furniture.
When buying a home, a mortgage lender may require that an insurance policy is linked to your mortgage, otherwise there is no obligation to do this. Homebuyers are responsible for the insurance as soon as they sign the compromis de vente – around four months before they get the keys – so insurance is advisable.
Additionally, if you employ a part-time or full-time cleaner or nanny you need to take out special low-cost liability insurance in case they injure themselves on the job; for instance, slipping on the stairs.
If you consider contents insurance, remember that theft may no be not covered automatically but available as an option. Valuable personal items, such as jewellery or cameras, may require an ‘all risks’ policy, which will cover you for damage or loss in or out of the home. Premiums on desirables such as laptop computers tend to be high.
EU/EEA and Swiss citizens planning a short-term visit to the country may use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in Belgium to receive emergency treatment either free of charge or at a reduced cost. Other visitors can check the requirements with the Belgian consulate or embassy in their home country; in some cases, private insurance may be required before a Belgian visa or permit is granted.