New legislation has recently been introduced here in Turkey to ensure that every member of the population has health care insurance.
It's a wonderful idea of course, but as usual when the government introduces a scheme like this, they do not appear to think it through before implementation. Wherever you look for the correct information, be it on websites, forums or social security offices, there is much conflicting information. This is nothing new...the left hand very rarely knows what the right hand is doing in this country.
It would seem that everyone must belong to the government health scheme. At least this was the message a couple of months ago, with a deadline of January 31st for registration, failure to do so resulting in a hefty fine.
Most of the confusion has been amongst expats, some of whom already subscribed to private health insurance but were being told they had to join the government scheme regardless. Foreign consulates got involved and meetings were held with officials and varying bıts of information were posted on embassy websites...updated within days...changed...updated...and on and on. One minute they have to join, the next minute they don't. If you asked me to give you the latest correct information, I couldn't because I've lost the plot.
Basically until now there have been two types of cover (well three if you count just paying as you go for treatment). If you are employed with a contract, your employer is obliged by law to pay your health cover. It's called SSK. There have been a few times in the past where Mr A was covered by SSK, which also covered me. Interestingly, each time this was the case, the EMPLOYER's contribution was deducted from Mr A's salary at the end of each month...not what is supposed to happen but often does.
The second type of cover is called Bağkur and this is for people who are either self-employed or unemployed. I did a lot of research on this back in October because Mr A was convinced he wasn't eligible but I was sure he was. Of course I was right! Finally on 21st December he registered with the social security department. One month later he collected his form to take to the bank to make his first payment. We were both covered from 21st January.
The Bağkur monthly contribution is understandably much less than the SSK contribution. Where I actually started to lose the plot was when I kept reading about everyone having to have SSK cover, because I always believed this to be an employer contribution. I still don't get what's happening. All I know for certain is that Mr A has health cover, and because I am his wife, and a Turkish citizen by marriage, I am also covered.
I do feel sorry for foreigners who have settled here because there is still so much confusion. I don't think anyone objects to paying for healthcare, but they do need to know exactly how they must go about obtaining it.
I've always been very impressed with the treatment I've received here on occasions when I've needed it. Some of the devlet (state) hospitals are in a poor state of repair but the system, although confusing at times, is relatively fast and efficient. You can walk into a hospital without an appointment and see a doctor. If you need to have blood or urine tests, ultrasounds or ex-rays, these are done straight away and the results produced within hours. I've had to pay on these occasions, but the costs were minimal (although with the new legislation, people without cover now have to pay considerably more).
When we lived in Side, Antalya, I had been ill for some months with what I later discovered were 2 strains of food poisoning. I lost weight, had stomach pain constantly, and eventually collapsed. I was taken to the private hospital where it was established that apart from the salmonella and shigella lurking in my body, I had a large stone just about to burst my gallbladder. Within hours I had been admitted, and my gallbladder removed and then put on IV antibiotics. I spent a day in intensive care and a further 5 days in the hospital. I know that the rapid response from the surgeon prevented something much worse happening to me.
The biggest surprise was the bill at the end of all this. Around 400 pounds. And this was private treatment.
I have used the devlet hospital in Milas once, in 2010, for a urinary tract infection which was cleared up promptly with the correct medication. Again, I had no health cover at the time, and the charge was 45 lira for doctor consultation and diagnosis, blood and urine tests and ultrasound.
Even if I still had access to the NHS in England, I would be very reluctant to use it. I am perfectly satisfied with the care here.
And yesterday we made a further discovery. I did know that on the odd occasion a doctor from Milas would visit the village for a couple of hours to hold a surgery. The problem here was that you never knew when he would be coming, until an announcement was made over the public address system to announce his arrival.
Yesterday whilst Mr A was in the village teahouse he saw a notice on one of the buildings attached to the primary school which announced that a doctor's clinic was in progress. He went to investigate and learned that we now have a regular doctor's surgery for 2 hours every Wednesday and Friday. This is great news for those of us without transport, and particularly the elderly, as the devlet hospital is on the far side of Milas and difficult to get to.
There will undoubtedly be more teething problems with this new health care legislation before it's running smoothly...if it ever does...but it's a huge step in the right direction in my opinion.