The deadline for expatriates to register with the national health insurance system expires today. The implementation grants expats the right to access local healthcare services after paying the monthly fees

Foreigners living in Turkey are obliged to be registered at local Social Security Institution offices to be included in the national healthcare system.

Foreign expatriates residing in Turkey have been scrambling to register with the Social Security Institution (SGK) for Turkey’s national health insurance, before the deadline ends today.

Those expats resident for more than one year and who are not covered by their home country health insurance policies may sign up for the SGK insurance at a later date, but face a onetime 886.5 Turkish Liras ($495) fine.

“This new health insurance stipulation will affect 50,000 to 100,000 foreign expats,” said Sadettin Orhan, a Turkish Labor and Social Security Expert in a phone interview.
Foreign expatriates (expats) who register for the national health insurance will pay a premium of 213 liras per month, but will have access to health insurance at a much cheaper rate than if they were to pay 500 to 600 liras a month out of pocket for private health insurance plans.

Homeowners to benefit
“There are a lot of elderly European expats older than 60 who have homes on the Aegean coast of Turkey. Spending 600 liras a month on private health plans is too costly for them. They are the ones who really stand to benefit from this option,” said Orhan.

Since Turkey is not a member

country of the European Union, many national European health insurance plans will not extend health insurance coverage to their citizens who are living in Turkey, said Orhan. “I know for fact that the U.K. is one country that does not cover its citizens residing in Turkey.”

The problem, however, is that many foreign citizens do not know how to go about registering for this national health insurance and don’t have access to information. They are forced to contact experts like Orhan for help. Jolee Zola, a retiree from Cambridge Massachusetts, described going to the SGK as a very confusing process, in an interview with The New York Times. However, the SGK employees “did really try to help us,” she said.

“The problem really is that staff at the local SGK offices do not speak English and therefore are not able to give the necessary information to the expats who come seeking help,” said Orhan. “If they turn to their own consultants again they hit a brick wall because their consulates are not briefed with all the necessary details.”

“Generally most expats I have talked to are interested, but it’s chaos. We can’t get any clear updates,” said Neville Wells, a partner of the ESP language school, during a phone interview yesterday. “We expats who reside here are registered here, but you think that they would send us notifications by mail, but we’ve received nothing. They could have at least done something like that. “ he added.

Meanwhile, foreigners on a tourist visa, who were formerly able to spend six months in Turkey, are now required to exit the country in 90 days according to a new law. This law will affect many low-pay workers from countries like Moldova, Armenia, Georgia, and Turkmenistan who work as nannies or blue collar workers. Under the previous law, these people were able to go back to their countries after three months, spend a few days and re-enter Turkey for another three months.

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