Croatia has a universal healthcare system providing a form of mandatory public insurance to all people. The population is covered by a basic health insurance plan (called “obavezno”) as required by law and optional insurance administered by the Croatian Health Insurance Fund (known as “HZZO“).
Croatia’s social health insurance system is based on the principles of solidarity and reciprocity, by which citizens are expected to contribute according to their ability to pay and receive basic health care services according to their needs.
Croatian citizens and residents are required to participate in health care expenditures, except for certain groups of insured people such as:
- Children under age of 18
- Children of dependents that are incapable of living and working independently
- People with residency in Croatia that are incapable of independent life
- Family members of dead or missing Croatian armed forces members and disabled members of Croatian armed forces
Which kinds of health insurance are available?
In Croatia, there are three types of health insurance:
- Obavezno zdravstveno osiguranje – public basic health insurance
- Dopunsko zdravstveno osiguranje – public or private supplemental health insurance
- Dodatno zdravstveno osiguranje – private supplemental health insurance
Obavezno health insurance is mandatory and prescribed by the state agency HZZO. It is required for all residents in Croatia. You can read more about obavezno basic heath insurance here.
Dopunsko is an affordable, optional health insurance supplement that you can get from either HZZO or a private bank or insurer. It eliminates most co-payments for prescriptions, doctor visits and diagnostic tests. It also limits your cost for hospital visits. You can read about dopunsko and why you should absolutely have it here.
Dodatno is the highest level of health insurance in Croatia. It is only offered by banks and private insurers. This policy covers specialists, additional treatments, preventative care, laboratory tests and extended hospital visits. You can read about dodatno here.
How the Croatian healthcare system works
Every one must have a general practitioner (family doctor) if they intend to use the state health insurance policy. While it is not required to have a general doctor by law, your general doctor should always be your first stop when seeking treatment. At the initial visit, the general doctor will do an analysis and recommend further treatment, testing, and referrals, as needed.
To gain access to hospital, diagnostic, and poliklinika services, a referral from a public general practitioner with a contract with HZZO is required. This referral is called an “uputnica”, phonetically pronounced “oo-poot-neat-suh”.
An “uputnica” is an order of sorts, used for diagnostics such as blood and urine tests, prescriptions, and procedures. Your family doctor provides the uputnica, which is why that is your first stop.
Uputnica are critical when using the Croatian healthcare system. They are used at every level of healthcare, from simple blood tests to the anesthesia required for surgery. Croatia is paper-heavy and orders such as these are not transmitted digitally, so do not lose your uputnica!
Once more with feeling…DO NOT LOSE YOUR UPUTNICA!
One more thing about your uputnica. If you do not use it, you are “supposed” to return it to your doctor that created it so it can be returned to HZZO. The world will not explode if you do not, but I learned about this during a thorough chastising by my doctor.
Croatian healthcare costs
Health care contributions in Croatia are mandatory for all employed citizens and are paid for by their employers. Dependents of employees obtain their health care coverage through contributions paid for by working members of their families. Self-employed workers in Croatia are also obliged to pay health care contributions on their own.
Find out the exact healthcare costs for basic state obavezno coverage for your situation here.
Croatian residents have the option to obtain health services with private health care providers which are not HZZO contracted partners, either through direct payment or through supplemental insurance which covers the payment.
All residents of Croatia are required to have obavezno insurance through HZZO even if they choose not to use it or if they choose to use private insurance. Health insurance premiums do not vary based on residency status, but may change at the prerogative of HZZO.
Administration of the healthcare system
The steward of the health system is the Ministry of Health, which is responsible for health policy, planning and evaluation, public health programs, and the regulation of capital investments. The Ministry of Finance also plays a key role and is responsible for the planning and management of the government budget.
There are hundreds of healthcare institutions in Croatia, including 79 hospitals and clinics with 25.285 beds, caring for more than 760.000 patients per year. Ownership of hospitals is shared between the state and the counties of Croatia.
There are 5.792 private practice offices, and a total of 46.020 health workers in the country, including 10.363 medical doctors. There are 79 emergency medical service units.
Here are some additional resources about healthcare in Croatia:
- Birth control, Plan B, Plan C and abortion availability
- Drug addition treatment programs
- Guide to coronavirus resources in Croatia
- How to donate blood
- How to fill prescriptions
- How to find an English-speaking doctor
- How to get tested for sexually-transmitted diseases
- List of doctors and doctor offices translated into English and Croatian
- List of medical practices and specialties translated into English and Croatian