Anyone thinking about moving abroad should seriously consider the issue of medical insurance.
EU citizens visiting Bulgaria are entitled to free emergency medical treatment however prescriptions must be paid for. It is important for visitors to ensure that any healthcare required is sought from doctors and hospitals working under the state healthcare scheme. Private treatment is not covered by the EU reciprocal healthcare arrangements. To obtain free treatment you should ensure that you have a European Health Insurance Card.
All EU citizens who wish to live in Bulgaria have the legal obligation to sign up to the local national insurance scheme.
The state health care is provided by the National Health Service. It is necessary to sign up and make payments into the scheme for six months before a doctor can be assigned to you. The instalments depend on the bases of your residency permit. If you have applied as an individual you would have to pay about 6 euros per month. This amount covers only the state health insurance. If your residency is based on the fact that you own a company then the minimum monthly payment is 38 euros.
Your doctor is responsible for all examinations and would prescribe the treatment which is needed (including referrals to other specialist doctors, hospital treatment, and medical tests). Medical examinations are not free. You need to pay 2 levs (1 euro) each time you visit a doctor.
If you are retired and have kept all your national insurance contributions up to date in your home country then you can use the healthcare system free of charge without having to make local contributions. You would need to consult the authorities in your own country prior to leaving to Bulgaria in order to obtain the necessary documents which then need to be presented to the Bulgarian NHS.
The quality of healthcare varies considerably across Bulgaria. Unfortunately through years of underinvestment much of the infrastructure is run down. The state hospitals are not very well equipped and their general outlook is unwelcoming. At the same time in the big cities there are state (such as St Ekaterina University Hospital http://www.uhsek.com/index.php?lang=eng_&s=2&id=) and private hospitals (Tokuda Hospital http://www.tokudabolnica.bg/) meeting the highest standards in terms of equipment and professional care.
The standards of the medical services outside the hospitals are much better. Many of the specialist doctors have well-equipped practices and there are medical laboratories offering variety of services. All these, whilst not free, are reasonably priced and access is not a problem. In most cases you would be able to arrange an appointment for the next day or two and the cost would be 10-20 euros for private examination from a specialist. An ultrasound scan for example usually costs between 10 and 20 euros.
Instead of signing up to the local healthcare service some people prefer to take out private medical insurance. Until recently private medical insurance was available only for Bulgarians travelling abroad. With the development of the insurance services market and joining the EU the insurance companies started to offer private medical insurance to foreigners residing in Bulgaria.
All the major insurance companies offer private medical insurance covering medical expenses connected with illness or accident. The prices vary and generally depend on the following factors:
if the individual is temporary (up to 5 years) or permanent resident in Bulgaria;
his or hers age – the lowest rate applies for individuals in the age group of 16-25 years of age;
duration of the coverage – it can be done for up to one year and can be renewed then;
the maximum amount of the coverage – from 1,000 up to 30,000 levs (500 euros to 16,000 euros);
the type of coverage – general insurance covers medical treatment in a hospital or outside a hospital, medical examinations and medicines, and emergency treatment. Surgery treatment is not covered by the general insurance but can be included with additional payment.
For example the annual charge for general coverage (not including surgery treatment) for 55 year old individual for 1 year and 20,000 levs (10,200 euros) coverage would be 680 levs (348 euros) with the Uniqa Insurance Company (or monthly payments of 29 euros).
It is important to note that the insurance does not cover treatments for illnesses which started prior to the start of the policy.
For those who reside in Bulgaria and wish to travel abroad for short period of time international medical insurance is available. With Uniqa Insurance the policy covers treatment and related expenses from 2,000 to 50,000 euros at a cost of 0.37 to 1.90 levs per day (a discount is applied after the 30th day).
It might prove best for an individual to combine both national insurance and private health insurance which will allow higher standard of the services used.
Dental care in Bulgarian is generally based on small allowance paid from the National Health Service and individuals paying the rest of the expenses. The quality of the dental services is good and the prices are much cheaper than those in the countries from the Western Europe. Many of our clients find it appropriate to take the necessary treatment whilst spending their holidays in Bulgaria and thus gaining from the good professional level of the service and comparatively low prices. One should bear in mind however that some of the private dental clinics in the big cities might charge prices which are very high compared to the rest of the country.
Having viewed the internet forums following the broadcasting of the programme dedicated to Bulgaria it seems that people had very mixed views about how Bulgaria was represented in the latest Michael Palin’s production. The overall impression was that most found it did not do justice to Bulgaria as it did not feature some of the best places such as the Black Sea coast, Veliko Turnovo, or the archaeological sites. However many people also felt it was not negative just showing another point of view to the country.
The second series featured Bulgaria together with Turkey within an hour film. Bulgaria was presented with views from Sofia churches, some disturbing pictures of a Plovdiv gypsy quarter with its inhabitants and views form Rila with the marvellous Seven Rila Lakes and the gathering of the White Brotherhood founded by Petar Dunov in the beginning the 20th century and proclaiming original Christianity.
Petar Dunov and his teaching were famous in the USA and some Western European countries in the 20s to 40s of the last century. Albert Einstein, who was one of his followers, said "All the world renders homage to me and I render homage to the Master Petar Dunov from Bulgaria."
Low-cost airline Sky Europe starts new direct flights from Bulgaria to 11 European capitals and major cities in October 2007.
The company will fly daily to Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Innsbruck and Warsaw and twice a week to Vienna. There will be also flights three times per week to Thessaloniki, Venice and Nice and four times a week to Krakow and Athens.
Ticket prices start from 27 euro. Regular clients of the airline company will receive special offers allowing them to change the reservation or name of passenger in the last minute.
The much-anticipated expansion of Bulgaria’s ski resort Borovets, widely known as Super Borovets project, is finally getting underway in October with the construction of a lift connecting the town of Samokov with the Markudjik ski runs.
The whole project will be implemented into three phases. The Lower Borovets tract will have 7,000 beds and further 1,500 hotel beds are planned for the tourist core Beli Iskar. The area will also accommodate a lift connecting the resort with the river of Beli Iskar. The bed capacity of Borovets proper is seen rising to 8,000 beds from 6,500 at present. Another 1,000 hotel beds are planned for the upper Borovets. Upon completion Borovets will have 25,000 beds and 100 km of ski runs. At least 350 milliom euro are expected to be invested in the Super Borovets project.