Croatia to Limit Abuse of HZZO Healthcare for Croats Living Abroad

Lauren Simmonds

Since health insurance in several other EU countries is considerably more expensive than it is here in Croatia, many Croats who are actively living and working abroad keep returning to Croatia to have check ups during pregnancy, get dental treatment, obtain certain prescription medication and undergo various forms of physical therapy. The Croatian Government is seeking to limit what some deem to be an abuse of HZZO’s system.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 18th of June, 2019, Estonia and Finland are the first countries with which the Republic of Croatia will exchange electronic healthcare data electronically, from e-prescriptions onwards. In addition to assisting in providing healthcare services, this advanced way of doing things should also encourage and more easily enable the discovery of Croatian citizens who have left the country over the past few years in search of work abroad, and who are still insured through HZZO (Croatian Health Insurance Fund), Novi list writes.

According to recent estimates by the competent body, 330,000 persons who have left Croatia have retained their health insurance they are entitled to through HZZO and use it personally or through relatives and acquaintances. According to statements made by doctors who have been seen by such patients, two thirds of Croatian citizens who went abroad work are still actively using Croatian health insurance, with friends and relatives reporting their presence every month at the Croatian employment office and getting them medicines which they then send to them in their new countries by bus to Austria, Germany, Ireland, or wherever else.

Since health insurance in these countries is considerably more expensive than it is through HZZO in Croatia, Croatian immigrants are often returning to Croatia for pregnancy check ups, dental treatment, to obtain various forms of prescription medication or to undertake different types of physical therapy.

The number of HZZO insured persons stood at 4,149,419 at the beginning of May this year, while the State Bureau of Statistics estimates that as of 31.12.2017, the statistic speaks of about 4,105,493 inhabitants in Croatia. Therefore, even without the grey zone of those who didn’t de-register themselves with HZZO before leaving the country permanently, the official institutions record a surplus of 44,000 such insured persons.

“After long negotiations, we’ve signed an agreement with the Croatian Ministry of the Interior and now we need to sort out the IT side of everything get things in motion. Next come negotiations with the Tax Administration, to see where an individual is paying their taxes and to gain an insight into his place of residence,” explained the director of HZZO, Lucijan Vukelić, in conversation with Novi list.

While one EU country, such as the United Kingdom, has free healthcare (taxpayer funded) for all lawful residents, according to HZZO’s findings, in countries such as Germany and Italy, Croatian immigrants must have health insurance, but this doesn’t mean that they actually go to the doctor there, because the participation in health care services is far greater in such countries than it is at home. It’s cheaper for them to come and get what they need when they come to Croatia. Much like the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland also has no health insurance obligation, but anyone who goes there to work must register their residence with the Irish authorities.

How will everything in that enormous grey area work soon? Before a pharmacist in another country issues some medication via an e-prescription, he will ask for the patient’s permission to receive his prescriptions, and when the patient receives his or her prescription medication, he or she will have to pay the full cost of the prescription and ask for a refund from his insurer in the country where the prescription was issued.

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