Why you must have health insurance in Croatia

Photo by Pasárgada Comunicação

UPDATED: 6.7.2023.

State health insurance is mandatory for most people in Croatia: students, temporary residents, and citizens alike. If you plan to live in Croatia for any time, signing up for state health insurance is inevitable unless you are an EU/EEA citizen with a state policy from another EU/EEA country or a digital nomad.

There was a time when Croatia required that you sign up for state health insurance as part of your residence application. This has changed with the influx of foreigners wishing to live in Croatia long-term.

During your residence application, you must now show you already have some other kind of insurance. Then once you are approved for residence, you can go to a health insurance office called HZZO and sign up for state health insurance. Health insurance is called zdravstveno osiguranje in Croatian.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

Why you must have health insurance in Croatia

Available health insurance options in Croatia

Croatia has 3 types of zdravstveno osiguranje (health insurance):

  • Obvezno – public basic health insurance – view a guide here
  • Dopunsko – public or private supplemental health insurance – view a guide here
  • Dodatno – private supplemental health insurance – view a guide here

[Read: Health care and health insurance in Croatia]

Regarding the Croatian government, not all insurance policies are created equal. To meet the health insurance policy requirement for all residents, you must obtain OBVEZNO insurance through HZZO, the Croatian Institute for Health Insurance.

How to get state health insurance in Croatia

The procedure and requirements for getting Croatian state health insurance vary depending on whether you are a national of the European Union or not. We explained the differences below.

Croatian state insurance for EU/EEA citizens

If you plan to live in Croatia and are a citizen of an EU/EEA member state, you can keep your state health insurance policy from your home country to gain residence and live in Croatia once approved.

When applying for residence, you can show your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) provided by your home country. Your EHIC gives you access to urgent care while in Croatia.

[Read: What is a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)]

If you want access to all healthcare services, you will need to sign up for HZZO obvezno insurance. To enroll, you must provide a document from your public health insurance provider in your home country showing you are no longer insured.

This document will vary by country. Contact your home state insurance provider and tell them you are moving to Croatia. Explain you need to provide proof you are no longer insured by the state policy in your home country. HZZO can check this for you, but it can take a few weeks.

You’ll need to take this document to HZZO, who will provide you with the necessary documentation to get healthcare. Once you sign up, you’ll be obligated to pay the monthly premium UNLESS you are employed by a Croatian employer (they are required to pay your premium on your behalf as part of your salary).

[Read: How to apply for a work permit in Croatia]

HZZO requires that all new enrollees pay 12 months of premiums for the previous year before moving to Croatia. Some EU/EEA citizens can get out of this only if they prove they were covered for those 12 months by some other insurance policy.

View our guide on how EU/EEA citizens can sign up for Croatian state health insurance here.

Croatian state insurance for Croatian citizens

Croatian citizens not employed by a Croatian company must pay 12 months of back pay when signing up for HZZO for the first time. They can get out of this if they prove they were insured for the previous 12 months.

View our guide on how Croatian citizens can sign up for state health insurance here.

Croatian state insurance for third-country citizens

If you are not Croatian or an EU/EEA citizen and plan to stay in Croatia longer than 90 days, you’ll need to get national insurance through HZZO. However, digital nomads are exempt. Those on the digital nomad permit can sign up for state health insurance once approved, but it is not required. They may continue to use their private policy if they wish.

[Read: How to apply for the digital nomad residence permit in Croatia]

Understanding that someone cannot simply walk into HZZO and apply is essential. If you plan to stay here, you are probably working with the police (MUP) to obtain residency. You can view available visas and residence permits for Croatia here.

During this process, you’ll need to provide some kind of travel or private insurance as part of your application. We explained how you can get travel insurance in Croatia called putno, which you can use to apply for residence in this guide. Once you are approved for residence, you can enroll at HZZO.

Once you are signed up for national insurance, it takes 30 days to 3 months (sometimes longer) to get your insurance card in the mail. If you need healthcare during this time, you can obtain a letter showing proof of your coverage from HZZO.

There is a monthly cost for this insurance option that is calculated annually based on the salary average. You can view the latest insurance costs here. For new enrollees that are not from the EU/EEA, an initial payment total of 12 months of premiums will be due in addition to the monthly payment going forward. They consider it a back payment for the previous year.

View how third-country citizens can apply for Croatian health insurance here.

How to find the HZZO office in Croatia

Hrvatski zavod za zdravstveno osiguranje – HZZO (Croatian Health Insurance Fund) has regional offices in all major cities and branch offices for villages and islands.

To find your local office, view our HZZO’s complete office list here.

What does Croatian obvezno health insurance cover?

Obvezno health insurance is public and state-funded. You can learn more about obvezno, how much it costs, and who must pay for it in this post.

Coming from a country like the United States without state health care, a state-subsidized health care option is definitely more affordable. The reality is that it has its advantages and disadvantages like anything else.

Many prescriptions are free or cost very little, but some common ones are not covered, such as oral contraception. A visit to a doctor that is partnered with HZZO usually costs only a few euros or is free if you have the extra dopunsko insurance. Specialists are not always partnered with HZZO. In some cases, Croatians are willing to pay out of pocket to visit specialists to avoid long waits.

An appointment with a private specialist can cost around 70 euros ($45-75 USD) without insurance. If you are coming from the States, these prices are definitely a bargain, but they are not if you are from, live, or work in Croatia.

In addition to the optional dopunsko supplement, you can sign up for a private dodatno policy, which is the highest level of health insurance and covers a variety of additional tests, treatments, and procedures. You can learn about dodatno health insurance here.

Extra insights to know about Croatian health insurance

It may take some months before your first bill arrives at your house. In my case, it took 7 months. However, that first bill included those 7 months in its entirety, so be prepared for a big bill whenever it shows up.

If you’re worried about it taking so long to get the first bill, considering that the premiums continue to stack up even without you receiving a bill, just go talk to Porezna uprava (tax office) and request your balance so you can pay it.

Note: You are obliged to pay health insurance as long as you are here. It’s not something you can decide not to pay for 2 years, then start up again. For your health insurance to remain active, you have to make every payment that is owed since you started the policy.

Before you step off the plane, boat, or train into Croatia, it is invaluable to know what to expect, especially when it comes to your healthcare. To learn more about the system and how to navigate it, check our extensive post here.

View our other health insurance articles

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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