Access healthcare in Bulgaria

Public body: National Health Insurance Fund

Website: https://www.en.nhif.bg/page/2181

Introduction to healthcare in Bulgaria

If you are planning to live in Bulgaria, be prepared for a different healthcare system compared to the one in your home country.

Access to medical care will differ depending on your personal situation and the length of your stay. For example, for a short stay in Bulgaria of up to 90 days, you need your European health insurance card (EHIC) to access public healthcare providers. If you are going to be employed in Bulgaria, you need to subscribe to the local healthcare scheme. As an employee, you would make national health insurance contributions to the National Revenue Agency (NRA). Your Bulgarian employer will facilitate this process. If you are not working you can either pay voluntary contributions to the NRA or get private medical insurance. You must register as a resident first to be able to pay healthcare contributions in Bulgaria. Finally, if you are a pensioner looking to retire in Bulgaria, you need to obtain the S1 form from the country you are moving from. Armed with the S1 form you can register with the local public healthcare scheme.

Above all, make sure you understand your particular circumstances before relocating abroad.

Choosing a general practitioner (GP)

Individuals with access to public healthcare have the right to choose a doctor in a medical institution for primary outpatient medical care, as well as a dentist to provide dental care. Parents and guardians submit applications on behalf of their children. Each person has the right to choose a general practitioner (GP) by filling in a registration form. The form is available for free from the regional health insurance fund (RHIF) office at the place of your residence. It can also be downloaded from the NHIF website.

Present both the registration form and proof of paid health insurance contributions to the doctor of your choice during your initial visit. Pick your blue health insurance booklet from a RHIF office after you register with a GP.

The initial selection of a GP can be made at any time during the year. A subsequent change of GP is possible each and every year. This is done in the period from 1 to 30 June and from 1 to 31 December. The form for this is also available on the NHIF website.

Patients pay a flat fee of 2.90 BGN for every visit to the GP. Patients may require additional time off work to continue with their recovery at home. They need to obtain a note from their doctor to certify their sick leave.

Access to specialized outpatient care

Individuals can access specialized outpatient medical care once they have been issued with “Medical referral for consultation” by their GP or dentist. This medical referral document has to be used within 30 calendar days from the date of issue. Patients can choose any medical institution for specialized outpatient care, from a list of centers that have already signed a contract with the RHIF. Furthermore, they could be anywhere in the country.

Access to inpatient hospital care

Doctors and dentists from the outpatient care facilities can redirect patients with a “Hospitalization referral” document to a hospital of their choice for inpatient care. It is necessary for the hospital to have already signed a contract with the RHIF for treatment according to the respective clinical path. Similarly, this referral document has a validity period of 30 days for booking the examination day in the respective hospital unit.