Living in Belgium?
Healthcare and Housing in Belgium
Belgium’s Excellent Healthcare System
Expats living in Belgium profit from the country’s very good healthcare system. Health insurance in Belgium is part of the Belgian social security system and therefore compulsory for everyone residing in the country.
Since only up to 75% of medical expenses are covered by compulsory health insurance plans, many Belgians and expats alike choose to take out additional private insurance to cover excess payments. The non-refundable share of medical treatment costs is commonly referred to as the patient fee.
Belgium has very good public and private hospitals throughout the country. Every major city has at least one general public hospital. University towns often have more than one specialized healthcare institution.
The website of the Belgian Hospital Association lists all hospitals by region or specialization. Private clinics are not necessarily any better than state hospitals, but they often specialize in certain (surgical) treatments.
How Doctors in Belgium Work
Patients may choose which doctor or specialist to consult, and there is no need to see a general practitioner in the first instance. If you do not speak the local language very well, try contacting the local embassy or consulate of your country for a list of doctors who speak your native tongue. The US Embassy in Brussels should be able to provide you with contact details of English-speaking physicians.
Some doctors divide their time between a hospital and their private practice. Registered doctors may only charge fixed rates for treatments which are on the government’s “nomenclature of medical dispensations”. If you are offered a treatment which is not on that list, you should check with your health insurance fund whether and how much they will contribute.
Your Social Security Identity card, which you will receive from your health insurance fund, should be taken along for every visit to the doctor or to a hospital. You should also get a set of stickers from your insurance fund. One of these stickers should be attached to every doctor’s bill before returning it to your fund for reimbursement.
The Multiple Ways to Find Accommodation
There is generally no shortage of accommodation for rent in Belgium and properties become available all year round. They are usually advertised in daily newspapers and on dedicated internet sites. If your French or Dutch is not really up to par, try the English publication The Bulletin and keep your eyes peeled for orange signs in windows indicating that a property is “for rent” (à louer or te huur).
Of course, in bigger cities like Brussels finding accommodation is more challenging. However, among the expat community the best way to look for housing is by word of mouth, especially if you are looking for a place in an area where you are already living. Looking in local newspapers, magazines, and newsletters published by clubs and expatriate organizations might also be a good idea. In addition, real estate agents (agences immobilières / makelaars in onroerende goederen or simply makelaars) could also provide help in your search.
Most flats are rented unfurnished and a security deposit of up to three month’s rent may be required. If you are expected to pay a deposit, make sure that an inventory is taken recording the condition of the property before you move in. Also note that every tenant is obliged by law to take out a comprehensive household insurance policy.
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