State health insurance is mandatory for everyone in Croatia: students, temporary residents and citizens alike. If you plan to live in Croatia for any amount of time, signing up for insurance should be one of your first priorities. It is required as part of any residence permit application.
The Type of Insurance Matters
When it comes to the Croatian government, not all insurance policies are created equal. To meet the health insurance policy requirement for all residents, you must obtain insurance through HZZO (the Croatian Institute for Health Insurance).
Typically, you need proof that you have residency or are far enough down the path to obtaining residency that they can justify bringing you into the system. Health insurance premiums do not vary based on residency status, but may change at the prerogative of HZZO.
How to get state health insurance
If you plan to live in Croatia and are a European citizen from one of the following countries:
Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
…you can access Croatian healthcare given that you bring a document from your public health insurance provider before leaving your home country. This document will vary by country. Call your home state insurance provider and tell them you are moving to Croatia and need to provide Croatia with proof that you are no longer insured by the state policy in your home country.
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 of 529,68 kuna per month UNLESS you are employed by a Croatian employer, in which case they are required to pay your premium on your behalf as part of your salary.
If you are not Croatian or an EU citizen and plan to stay in Croatia longer than 90 days, you’ll need to get national insurance through HZZO. However, you cannot simply walk in to HZZO and apply. If you plan to stay here, you are probably working with the local police (Policija) to obtain residency.
During this process, they will give you a request letter for you to take to HZZO. This letter proves that you intend to reside in Croatia and the Policija have tentatively approved you for residency.
Once you get this document from the Policija, you’ll need to take it to HZZO. There are no forms to fill out at HZZO, merely an exchange of documents. HZZO will then give you a letter showing that you are now insured that you will take back to the Policija to be added to your visa application. It’s actually a fairly easy process.
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. The latest premium as of March 2019 is 529,68 kuna per month. For new enrollees in the Croatian Health Fund that are not from the EU, an initial payment of 6356,16 kuna will be due in addition to the monthly payment. They consider it back payment for the previous year.
It may take some months before your first bill shows up at your house. In my case, it took 7 months. However, that first bill included those 7 months in entirety so be prepared for a big bill whenever it shows up.
It’s important to note that you are obliged to pay the health insurance as long as you are here. It’s not something that 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.
How to find the HZZO office
HZZO has regional offices in all major cities, and branch offices for villages and islands. To find your local office, view HZZO’s complete office list. Click on the closest city to you to find the list of regional and branch offices.
What National Insurance Gets You
National insurance is public and state-funded. 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.
Most prescriptions are free or cost very little, but some common ones are not covered such as oral contraception. Visits to a doctor that is partnered with HZZO usually only costs about 10 kuna. Specialists are not always partnered with HZZO. In some cases, Croatians are willing to pay out of pocket to visit specialists to avoid the long waits.
An appointment with a private specialist can cost between 300 and 500 kuna ($50-90 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 and work in Croatia.
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 HZZO, visit their web site. To learn more about the system and how to navigate it, check our extensive post here.