CYPRUS: GHS is coming - but don't give up your private health plan just yet

09 January, 2019 | Posted By: Michael Doherty

It has been in the pipeline since 2001, but the pipe had many blockages and it sometimes seemed unlikely that the General Healthcare System (GHS), the long-promised universal health insurance system for Cyprus, would ever emerge.

However, 2019 will, it seems, finally be the year of the GHS. President Nicos Anastasiades has pledged that no complaints or protests will be allowed to postpone its introduction. In that case, the first phase will start in June and the system will be fully operational by July next year.

An important step was taken just before Christmas when
the financial and administrative supervision of state hospitals was formally transferred to Okyy, the body responsible for the organisation of state health services.

ll medical and paramedical professionals working in the hospitals have been seconded to Okyy and state doctors, who had been classified as health ministry civil servants, have now been offered contracts.

But it is symptomatic of the difficulties facing the entire national health plan that many doctors have opted to keep their civil servant status, even though the contracts would have rewarded them with a substantial pay increase.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou told the Cyprus Mail that he had never expected large numbers of state doctors to sign the contracts. “But this does not affect our plans, it does not create any concerns,” he said.

Maybe not. But the opposition to the GHS is considerable. Last week,
the Cyprus Society of Nuclear Medicine became the fifth group of private specialist doctors to announce they would not participate in the scheme.

They join endocrinologists, pediatricians, gastroenterologists and ear nose and throat doctors.

The degree of opposition has cast doubt on how effective GHS can be even if its introduction is kept to schedule. But, effective or not, the bill will have to be paid.

When the first phase comes into operation, wage-earners, pensioners, income-earners, and state officials will contribute 1.7% of their income to the GHS, employers 1.85%, the state 1.65%, and the self-employed 2.55%.

With the second phase these figures will rise to 2.65%, 2.9%, 4.7% and 4% respectively. 

Most expats who can afford it take out private health insurance, both for the choice it gives them and for the peace of mind it brings in knowing you are covered. For British nationals living in Cyprus, health insurance also offers some protection against the
uncertainties of Brexit.

Anyone who has paid regular social security contributions in another EU country for two full years prior to coming to Cyprus is entitled to medical cover for a limited period, and EU pensioners are entitled to free medical treatment.

As things stand, this right will apply to UK citizens even after Brexit. But if Britain pulls out of the EU without an agreement, all deals will be off. So private insurance could be vital.

In the long-term GHS may well provide the health-care solution for all, expats as well as Cypriots. For the moment, however, its advantages are uncertain, and I would advise holding on to your private health insurance.

Health care, in any case, should be budgeted for as part of wider financial planning. Good planning is the key to a stress-free expat life. A good financial adviser will help you set a plan for getting and keeping your finances in shape.

Woodbrook Group are experts in the field.
We are not owned by any financial institution or life insurance company. This makes us different from the majority of financial advisory companies and means we can offer you unbiased and impartial advice tailored to your individual requirements.