Today we are globally celebrating health awareness day to draw attention to a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world. On this day, April 7th, we also mark the anniversary of the founding of The World Health Organization in 1948. To contribute to World Health day, we have put together a concise guide for the healthcare system and health insurance in Croatia. In our guide we’re serving useful information about:
Healthcare standard in Croatia is mainly satisfactory, with better accessibility to health care facilities in major cities. Range of health services rendered in remote areas and islands is less, but still within acceptable range. Due to commonly rising costs of healthcare, especially expenditure on drugs, Croatia health care system is accompanied by lack of budget funds for health care, which so far has not affected drug supply within public health care institutions in Croatia. Health care services on secondary and tertiary level in major cities are mainly rendered in hospitals. Hospitals can be classified as clinical, general and special hospitals.
Healthcare contributions in Croatia are mandatory for all employed citizens, i.e. their employers. The dependents obtain their health care coverage through contributions paid by working members of their families. Self-employed workers in Croatia are also obliged to pay health care contributions. Croatian citizens who belong to a particularly vulnerable category are exempt from paying health care contributions; retired people and persons with low income (students and unemployed) are insured and have access to health care facilities - contractual partners - of the Croatian Health Insurance Fund (CHIF).
Croatian citizens have the option to obtain health services within private health care providers which are not CHIF contracted partners, either through direct payment or through supplemental insurance which is covering the payment.
How does it work?
Once you’re enrolled into CHIF (in Croatian: HZZO) you have the right to use healthcare services, such as:
• primary health care,
• specialist-consultative health care,
• hospital health care,
• medications determined by the basic and supplementary medicine list of the HZZO,
• dental prostheses determined by the basic and supplementary prostheses list of the HZZO,
• orthopaedic and other medical prostheses determined by the basic and supplementary orthopaedic and other medical prostheses list of the HZZO, and
• the right to cross-border health care.
Whenever you find yourself in need of an examination, your family doctor (general practitioner) at a local health institutes or centers (in Croatian: Dom zdravlja) should be the first step. You don’t need a referral for this, but you need to book an appointment prior to the visit. In case your health condition requires specialist healthcare services, primary care doctors will refer you to appropriate medical specialists by providing you with a referral note (in Croatian: “uputnica”, try: oo-poot-nee-tzaah). Before going to a specialist, you need to make an appointment in advance. Uputnica is one of the key steps in the Croatian healthcare system, and is used on every level of health care (primary and specialist): no matter if a medication, a blood test or a surgery is what you need - you can only get access if your doctor has prescribed you with a uputnica. As of October 2022, uputnica is no longer prescribed physically on paper, and now it’s available in electronic form as e-uputnica. Once your family doctor issues you a uputnica, it will be automatically sent to the specialist you need to visit. You can see your doctor's visits, prescribed medications and specialist examinations in your Health portal (in Croatian: portal zdravlja) on your e-Građani account. Of course, you can always choose to go to private clinics, where HZZO insurance doesn’t cover the costs of your treatment.
2. Who is required to apply for compulsory health insurance in Croatia?
Persons required to obtain health insurance are as follows:
Application, changes, cancellation of the compulsory health insurance can be executed at any CHIF regional or branch office, within 8 days from the day of the occurrence of the changes or termination of the circumstances on the basis of which one obtains the status of the insured person under compulsory health insurance.
3. How to enroll into the Croatian healthcare system as a foreigner?
Foreigners with approved permanent residence obtain their compulsory insurance based on one of insurance grounds established by the Compulsory Health Insurance Act.
Foreigners with temporary residence in Croatia, regardless of the purpose of their temporary residence permit, whose right to compulsory health insurance or health care is not insured on another basis, are obliged to obtain insurance by becoming payers of health insurance contributions (one-time contribution for the enrollment into the HZZO system and monthly participation in the amount of 575,00 HRK).
Exceptions are foreigners who are temporary residents in Croatia for the purpose of secondary education and study, who have evidence of health risk insurance, and foreigners who come under the Youth Mobility Programme, student exchange contracts and other similar programmes, if their health insurance is covered by the said programmes.
4. How to register for a family doctor or a general practitioner in Croatia?
Once enrolled into the Croatian healthcare system (HZZO), you will be issued with a card, which you must bring with you to all your appointments. For general health concerns you can go to the nearest healthcare center (in Croatian: Dom zdravlja) where a general practitioner can refer you to a specialist or a hospital if necessary. You can find a list of Dom zdravlja in every city, here’s the list of all the Dom zdravlja centers in Zagreb. All people insured with HZZO can pick their own doctors (family doctor, dentist, gynecologist and pediatrician). Before your family doctor starts providing any treatment or services, you need to sign up at his/her medical office.
STEP 1: FIND A DOCTOR
Once you find a doctor who has free cient spots, he/she cannot deny your request to sign up at his/her office. It’s best to call the doctor to check if there are available spots.
STEP 2: FILL OUT THE FORM
If you’ve found a doctor who has agreed to sign you in his/her medical practice office, the next thing you ought to do is fill out this HZZO form. Important: fill out only the parts with information about you.
STEP 3: GO TO YOUR DOCTOR AND WAIT
After you have filled out the HZZO form, you need to bring it to your doctor for him/her to fill out the rest of it. From that point on, all you need to do is wait for HZZO to process this request for a doctor and you’ll be enrolled into your new doctor’s office.
5. List of English-speaking doctors in Croatia
US Embassy and UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office have put up extended lists of English-speaking doctors. Here you can find a list of medical centers, family doctors, gynecologists, dentists, pediatricians, as well as private clinics.
6. What are the costs of healthcare services in Croatia?
All Croatian residents are covered with basic state healthcare insurance and the basic policy (in Croatian: obavezno) costs approximately 590,00 HRK a month. However, private healthcare is likely to give you much more in-depth coverage overall and it can cost between 500,00 and 8.000,00 HRK a year. Benefits of having a private medical cover are: shorter waiting time for appointments, private hospital rooms, better quality facilities, the ability to choose your doctor or surgeon.
7. What to do in the case of an emergency?
In case of a severe medical condition which is life threatening or could lead to life threatening situations, you don’t need to wait for a primary care doctor, you should seek emergency medical service right away - call emergency medical service by dialing 112 or 194.
In case of a medical emergency, a person is admitted to the hospital immediately and without a referral.