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Finding quality healthcare as an expat

However, if you’re about to move and are concerned about your healthcare, as with all aspects of your expat retirement planning, it’s best to sort it out sooner rather than later. So here are a few quick tips on locating a medical professional in some of the expat destinations featuring some of the leading healthcare systems in the world.

Germany
In Germany, expat patients can use the state-run service or see doctors privately (you can enrol in private health insurance if you have an income greater than €57,600 or are self-employed). To see a doctor, you must first register for healthcare at your local town hall to acquire a social insurance number and health card.

Finding a doctor in Germany is relatively straightforward, as there are many resources to help you in your search. All doctors are listed in the German equivalent of the Yellow Pages – Gelbe Seiten – under Ärzte.

A second option is to use internet databases. For example, the website DocInsider.de features a searchable database listing healthcare providers by location in the country and displays ratings by other patients (although it should be noted that the site is only available in German).

Another great resource for expats living in Germany is your health insurance provider, who can give you a list of recommended physicians. Some insurers even offer a tailored service, helping you find an English-speaking doctor who will meet any specific requirements you may have. Your embassy should also be able to give you a list of English-speaking doctors.

Sweden
Again, like Germany, Sweden’s healthcare system is widely regarded as one of the best in the world, with equal access for all citizens and an impressive doctor-to-patient ratio. This means that private healthcare and private health insurance is quite rare in Sweden. The government invests a sizeable proportion of the GDP into the sector every year, and expats with a residence visa are entitled to the same level of healthcare as Swedish nationals.

All Swedish municipalities will have a healthcare centre, or vårdcentral, and you’ll need to call one up and register before you can make an appointment with a doctor or nurse. To locate the nearest healthcare centre, you can use the online vårdguiden (health care guide) and telephone service 1177. To register, you’ll need your Swedish personal number. Once you’ve completed the registration process, you’ll have access to the same healthcare as all Swedish citizens. You will also receive this quality healthcare at the same cost as nationals, which is great news because Swedish healthcare is known for being affordable (it’s also free for people under 20). There is also a limit on how much you spend on healthcare in a year to ensure care costs don’t climb too high.

Although medical staff in Sweden will mostly speak fluent English, the healthcare centre should be able to arrange an interpreter for you (for free) if the centre isn’t as English-friendly as others.

The Netherlands
Dutch health insurance is mandatory if you go to live in the Netherlands (by law, you must take out basic healthcare insurance). The Dutch healthcare system is often ranked as the best in Europe, topping the category in the EuroHealth Consumer Index in 2016. With 160 primary care centres open 24/7, it’s rare that you’ll find another country with healthcare that’s so accessible.
The cost of visiting Dutch GPs – huisarts – is covered by basic health insurance. With insurance, you just need to present ID and your health insurance card, and the bill will be passed on to your insurer. To cover extra treatments, such as physiotherapy and dental care, you can purchase more comprehensive private insurance.

Many people speak English in the Netherlands, and the same goes for the medical professionals. So, just like Germany and Sweden, there’s no reason to be anxious about the language hindering you from getting the care you need (however, we don’t want to discourage you from learning the language of your expat destination, and knowing a few Dutch phrases won’t hurt).

You can search for a doctor in the Netherlands by visiting your town hall Gemeentehuis and requesting a booklet known as a gemeentegid, which should include information on all local GPs. The website Ik zoek een huisarts (‘I’m looking for a doctor’) will also allow you to search for local doctors by entering your postcode.

After you’ve found a doctor, you may also make a pre-registration appointment with a doctor to check whether they are suited to all your requirements.

Planning is key for great healthcare

Overall, the key to finding a quality doctor, wherever you are in the world, is being prepared. It’s a lot better to find a doctor ahead of time instead of waiting until you fall ill. The same principle applies to making sure your finances are in order.

While there may be a number of simple options for locating medical staff while living as an expat, finding the right financial adviser may be a little harder. Blacktower’s financial advisers, all of whom speak the local language as well as English, are based across Europe and further afield, so you can rest assured you’ll be able to find assistance with your expat retirement planning for the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, oand various other locations in a language you understand.

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