Turkish Health Insurance – REALLY???!!!

Rave as you will about Turkish healthcare, I’ve had nothing but trouble with it. (Remember this?) Up until now I could at least say that I had little difficulty with the government health insurance (SGK).  Up until now . . .

So Turkey has two health insurance systems, the government insurance, which was formerly provided to me via my husband’s job, and private insurance, which you either pay for personally or your company provides.

The big difference is that you can see private doctors with smaller lines and less hassle if you have private insurance.  Allegedly.

I have had a different experience.  I see the exact same doctors and am scrutinized by the exact same machines with both insurances.  They just happen to be the same doctors at different hospitals, a government hospital during the day and a private office or hospital at night.  Of course, that is not the case for all doctors.

I agree, there are smaller lines at private hospitals.  But as evidenced over the last few days, one can still be made to wait, with or without a line.

But back to the insurance.  I had little difficulty with my SGK from my husband. Sometimes computers were down and we had to pay cash and process the repayment later.  But that was about it.

Now I am lucky enough to have my own SGK and private insurance, both through my employer.  Woo hoo!  I have yet to have either work properly.

The prescription I need for my arthritis is not covered by my private insurance. So I was able to see the doctor at a private hospital and was supposed to be able to process the prescription through my SGK, via the same doctor who also works at a government hospital.

No go.  The hospital does not see me in the SGK system.  So of course, I ask the appropriate person (details withheld) for assistance by making a call to SGK.  I am denied, told it is too difficult to figure out which number to call, and told my husband needs to go to SGK and help me deal with it.  SGK actually has many locations, so if it is too difficult to figure out which number to call, what makes anyone think that my husband should have to spend hours away from his job, crawling from one location to the next to figure it out? Especially after he spent 2.5 hours at the hospital trying to figure it out?!

After insisting that this person do what I believe to be part of their job, particularly since it is the first time using the SGK after starting my job, I was ignored.  So my husband and I set out to figure it out.  Multiple phone calls to SGK and to the hospital, each blaming the other.

I’ve been without my medication since early October.  My finger is swelling.  My knees and ankles are aching.  My psoriasis is coming back.  The cost is about 540TL every two weeks.  Can’t afford that out of my pocket.  Ahhhh, the beauties of stress-related ailments.

We are at a stand-still.

This past weekend I tried to use my private insurance for a routine checkup. Besides the fact that I was at the lovely private hospital, not once, not twice but three times to have this simple checkup completed, they also were not able to process my “fabulous” private insurance.  Are you kidding me?  Here is what they said in English, and I quote, “There’s a problem at the beginning of the year.  You have to pay and submit it to your company.”

No explanation of the problem.

So I paid, 1000TL.  Hoping to get the reports so that I can be reimbursed. Seriously? The insurance company needs to see what, if anything, is wrong with me in order to reimburse me for an annual checkup that they allegedly cover anyway?

Oh, and the insurance company says they have never heard of such a thing. It’s the fault of that lovely private hospital.

Last note, my “fabulous” private insurance is a 20% co-pay.  Seriously?  I feel like I have stepped back into the 1950’s.

Yes Virginia, I had a bad day.

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14 thoughts on “Turkish Health Insurance – REALLY???!!!

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  1. Oh, my goodness! Problems with health care? Who would have thought? Sounds worse than the U.S. (for once). Is this what I have to look forward to? Fortunately, I had both hips replaced a year before I came here and I don’t seem to need anything further for now. I’m not looking forward to the day that I do need medical care. Maybe I’ll be lucky and be able to go back to the States for care, using my Medicare.

    1. It’s not all bad Linda. For example, I love that they pull out all of the fancy machines on the first visit. None of this, “let’s run this test, and if that doesn’t work then we will . . . ” crap that can take months. Glad you are well.

  2. oh dear Terry. Doesn’t sound good at all. It takes someone like you ie foreign with everything supposedly in place, to find out all the pitfalls. What an ABSOLUTE PAIN IN THE NECK!!!! I could say worse. Classic.I do hope you manage to sort it all out.

  3. The government should not be in the business of healthcare is all I have to say…bureaucracy and healthcare don’t mix….

    1. I see your point, Maria. Although after so many years spent beating up big business as a class action lawyer, I’m not sure leaving it in their hands is a good idea either. I have read first hand, from their own documents, what they do to the little man, and it ain’t pretty!

  4. . . it’s a shame that your experiences have all been negative – although I suspect that us Brits are about to get a lot of crap soon. Having been enticed and then forced to join the system (then told it wasn’t compulsory – confused?) we are now being told that those over 65 and drawing state pensions must leave the scheme and fall back on our NHS (which we are not eligible for, despite paying into, if we have been out of the country for 6 months or more) or go private. Having given up private insurance to join the scheme, who will give people like us with pre-existing conditions cover? Your problems stem from both branches of the system, state and private. That said, the medical care I’ve had here in Turkey has been first class – from major spinal surgery 8 years ago to being stitched up last week after falling off a stepladder. May your troubles and rants soon be over 🙂

    1. I read about some of that Alan, the back and forth with the Brits and insurance. It’s so interesting to me. I could never imagine such a thing in the States. Although, it surely may exist. Glad you had good experiences and hope the future works out well for you!

  5. I am admiering you for just leaving everything in your life behind and move to another country with a completly different culture.
    When you moved, what did you do about al your stuff?
    And last, is it hard to live in turkey, where the economics is not as good as in us?

    1. Hi Friida, thanks for the admiration but I am not sure I deserve it!

      When I moved, I sold my home and a lot of my stuff. Then we actually shipped a container here. I wish I had a full understanding of how big that container really was going to be, I would have shipped more, partially because of the economy. Economy, in everyday life, really depends on one’s everyday needs. Electronics and cars, definitely cheaper in the States. But there are many things that are cheaper here. Just depends on how you live, what you need, and for whom you work (that is, how much you get paid and in which currency.)

  6. Hey Terry, I’m not health expert, not even visiting hospitals/doctors very often (I should be thankful, right?) but I do like your posts.

    As a person who born, studied and has been living for his entire life in Ankara, it is really interesting to see the-everyday-life from an eye of a foreigner living here.

    What I really do not like about Ankara and Turkey in general is not just the system in health or education or traffic as you already mentioned. It is the understanding and how we Turkish people behave. Take traffic for example. It is like the TV Show “Survivor” as if you either let someone in front of you or die! And it is getting worse day by day in Ankara.

    When it comes to health, as most of other things, the money opens every door. But once you want to follow the procedures even as a local and citizen, there are millions of problem you might face. I can tell you by experience that (since I’m an accountant/tax auditor) SGK easily admits that their system sucks when one of our clients had paid less just because of the system failure between SGK and the bank!!! But what is worse is that even if they admit it, they do nothing about it and you have to pay late fee with interest of course. And how can I describe to my Canadian client???

    There are some cases which would not be fair to compare Turkey with US or any other developed/western country. The culture, the technology, traditions, religion whatever you say the reason is prevent us to make a fair judgement or comparison. But I’m sad things are not getting well.

    Anyways, thank you for sharing your ideas, thoughts and experience.



    1. Thanks for your comment Erhan and for reading the blog! I had a rough time and just needed to get it out. All systems have their problems, that is for sure. But you did mention one thing that really does strike me here, “doing nothing about it.” I seem to notice that more and more. Perhaps I am just looking for it?

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