The Malta healthcare system is funded by government taxation. So renowned is this system that it has been rated as the fifth best system in the world by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Yet it also has a thriving private healthcare sector, with world-class specialists, technology and procedures available through health insurance plans or with a one-time fee. Understanding the details of both options will allow you to come to a greater conclusion on which service to choose.
Public Malta Healthcare
Malta’s public health service has a long and proud tradition. Originating as far back as 1372 and the historical emergence of the knights of St. John through the sixteenth-century, Malta has maintained some form of government or ecclesiastical healthcare for centuries. The provision of medical aid was particularly renowned through both World Wars, when the island nation hosted comprehensive nursing barracks for Allied troops. Today the Malta healthcare maintains a public healthcare system which is known as “government healthcare”. It is available for residents and, like the British NHS system, is free at the point of delivery. What’s more, most of the Maltese public healthcare is available for visiting residents of a European Union nation via the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme. As such, British citizens can currently benefit from emergency or pre-existing condition treatment when visiting. This is in part due to the EHIC programme, but also due to a bilateral agreement between the two countries, with Australian visitors also benefiting from treatment on stays for up to one month. Longer stays are subject to other rules. Visitors may also seek out many pharmacy dispensers across the island and enjoy access to specialist treatment, including prescriptions. For visitors residing outside of the EU, travel insurance is mandatory. Because the area is renowned for both diving and water sports, comprehensive coverage for medical evacuation is recommended.
The Malta healthcare system is centered around the prestigious and celebrated medical training centre of The University of Malta, and by their principal hospital: the Matar Dei. As one of the oldest university hospitals in Europe, training at the faculty of medicine — which includes medical, dental and nursing facilities — is well renowned, receiving awards of excellence for both service and research. If staying in the area, it is good to know that private healthcare, clinics and centres are not covered by the public system. This, as we will explain later, is available via a costly fee or through insurance.
Public Healthcare Funding and Operation
The Maltese public healthcare system is funded through taxation/social security contributions by residents and their employers. As a result all residents are fully covered in local health centres, clinics and hospitals. Foreigners who emigrate to Malta also qualify for coverage which will be similarly taxed. The government essentially funds all forms of specialist and medical services for its citizens, with prescription drugs, pregnancy procedures, hospitalisation, rest and rehabilitation included. Although prescriptions are still chargeable at a discounted rate, people on lower income brackets will receive their pharmaceuticals for free upon being means-tested by the state. Those suffering from diseases are similarly entitled to free treatment.
Although the public system is outstanding, some visitors and residents opt for private care due to advantages of treatment choice and speed, with wait times significantly reduced on operations and general checkups. With a wider range of options available, the private sector is growing in popularity on the island, as many citizens are now taking out comprehensive and specialist insurance. What’s more, businesses are also increasingly opting for contracts with private GPs and specialists to cover their employees, depending on the sector. In particular, the most popular private operations for visitors include both plastic surgery and dental work. Such work can be conducted via a “pay-as-you-go” policy or via packages. As such, Malta remains an attractive destination for health tourism due to certain procedures costing upwards of 70% less privately than in the rest of Europe.
In short, the private healthcare system has attracted many highly regarded trained specialists and boasts the latest medical technology. This in turn attracts foreign visitors to clinics for cheaper and efficient procedures.
St James’ Hospital is the oldest operating private institution in Malta, and is frequently visited for its cosmetic surgery. With some of the most contemporary clinics on the island, St James is now a bastion of the private health service, owning four clinics/branches across the island.
Other private hospitals include St Philip’s Hospital, an independent hospital that specialises in joint, hip and knee surgery/replacements, and Cosmetica, a private clinic that deal specifically in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. Both are serviced with high quality staff and surgeons, and both are internationally renowned.
Benefits when using Private Hospitals
With a range of options at hand, Malta offers both value for money and fairness in its public system and state-of-the-art procedures through specialist care. Because of their small size and reasonably low traffic flow, private clinics offer a quicker service which is more personalised. With fewer patients, their doctors, surgeons and nurses spend more time with each client. As such, the overall ambience of private care — with private facilities, bathrooms, modern amenities and technology — is highly recommended. This is particularly true for care where the hospitals place great emphasis on their specialist skills. Malta’s Ministry of Health has advised foreign residents to opt for private healthcare because of its quick turnaround, making it a top choice for visitors and citizens alike.
The Private Hospitals in Malta are highly rated throughout the world. Furthermore, in Malta, there is the option to pay as you go, for private hospitals, however, paying to go private for a procedure (without insurance) will be expensive. Due to this, we highly recommend you get a private insurance where you have to pay a small amount monthly and rest assured that you are fully covered.
When going to Malta, you might want to consider taking a health insurance cover. You should make arrangements before moving to Malta and determine the best premium for you.
When working in Malta, you contribute to the national insurance, while those who do not are required to pay for the private health insurance. Being an individual contributor is not mandatory as you can pay your medical expenses only when you visit a health care centre.
While choosing your premium, you can choose to insure higher excesses against the most costly calamities only. This choice can see your premium go below €100 per month. Otherwise, the private health insurance can see you part with a few hundred dollars monthly. The cost of the private insurance in Malta is lower than that paid in the US, although EU expats may not save much money.
As you plan your financial budget, you should not assume the cost of medical insurance. You should also remember that for your cost of insurance to be effective, private insurance and social insurances and taxes have to be included.
Health Insurance for expats in Malta with pre-existing conditions like chronic diseases and those who have retired (usually above 65 years) are the most disadvantaged health insurance holders. In most cases, they have to rely on private medical insurance system, which could take their monthly expenses on the cover to over €1,000.
These expenses can be reduced or solved wholly if you have a health insurance program back in the native country that can cover you even when in Malta. You need to make arrangements and check with your local health insurer before moving to Malta to determine whether they can cover you even when you are away in Malta. You might find out that there is no need to pay for private health insurance since you are already paying social insurance.
If you have an existing insurance policy, you should confirm its geographical coverage. If you take a Maltese medical cover policy, it is unlikely that the same insurance will cover you out of the country, unless you had explicitly taken an intentional cover.
If you have a local insurance cover, you should let your insurer know that you have intentions of moving to Malta and should change it to an international insurance cover. Making these changes will attract more cost, but it is worth the price since there is an extra burden of covering you when in a foreign country.
An excellent international health insurance coverage should be able to insure you against:
- All medical costs incurred in Malta
- Medical expenses in your native country, or any other relevant foreign nation
- Health evacuation costs (these expenses can be in the range of thousands of Euros without adequate insurance)