The State System
Health care in Slovenia is chiefly run by the Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia. It is bound by law to provide compulsory health insurance to all qualifying citizens. Its key task is to provide efficient collection and allocation of healthcare funds. The Institute consists of 10 regional units and 45 branches located all over Slovenia. Each qualifying citizen receives an electronic health insurance card, which they must produce each time they visit medical practitioners.
Employers must register their employees with the Health Insurance Institute when a new employee starts work. Employees and employers pay contributions into the healthcare fund. The combined contribution is 13.45 percent of which, 6.56 percent is paid by the employers and 6.36 percent is paid by the employees. Employers also pay an additional 0.53 percent to cover against occupational injuries and diseases. Dependant family members are covered by the contributions paid by employed family members. The self-employed must pay contributions according to a fixed proportion of their after-tax income. The unemployed, old age pensioners and people on long-term sickness benefit or maternity leave have to pay a fixed amount of healthcare contributions, for example pensioners pay a contribution of 5.65 percent of their gross pension towards the fund a year. Foreigners immigrating to Slovenia without jobs must produce proof of private health insurance in order to obtain their residence permit.
The state fund covers most medical services including treatment by specialists, hospitalisation, prescriptions, pregnancy and childbirth and rehabilitation.
Despite contributions to the health fund most doctors will ask for an extra fee for their services.
Doctors and Health Centres
Doctors are known as a doktor and are the first point of contact with the Slovenian health system. There is a huge shortage of doctors and nurses in Slovenia which causes long waiting lists. Citizens can register with the doctor of their choice, however, people seeking state medical care must make sure that their doctor is contracted into the state health scheme. Almost every doctor will expect payment for his services.
GPs prescribe drugs, make referrals, treat acute and chronic illnesses, and provide preventive care and health education.
In Slovenia there are 36 health centres all across the country. The health centres only provide outpatient care but do offer a wide variety of specialist services. Medical services provided by health centres include, general practice, maternity care, child healthcare and dental care. They also provide emergency medical aid as well as laboratory, radiology, and other diagnostic services.
Waiting times to see doctors vary and it is wise to make an advance appointment. If you need urgent help, you may go to the doctors surgery on speculation, but be prepared for a long wait.
Consultants are senior doctors who have completed a higher level of specialised training. There is a great need for consultants in Slovenia, but they are expensive and are in short supply. GPs refer patients to a consultant if they believe that a patient may need specialist help and diagnosis. There are numerous specialist fields of medicine in Slovenia like gynaecology, paediatrics, oncology or dermatology.
Hospitals and clinics exist in all major towns and cities of Slovenia. Patients are admitted to hospital either through the emergency department or through a referral by their doctor. Once a patient is admitted treatment is controlled by one of the hospital doctors. The conditions in some hospitals are generally good, however there is an issue about the lack of medical facilities. There may be a waiting list for some non-emergency treatments and services.
Emergency care is available free for everyone including those without state health insurance. However, once your condition is stabilised the hospital will want proof of your insurance status, and the doctors will ask you for a fee for their services. Emergency treatment is provided at the emergency room of all major state hospitals. Emergency departments are open non stop all year. You may use their services if you need immediate attention, or if your GP refers you to them, or if there is no GP service available. The waiting time for the services depends on the urgency of the illness or problem you have, for example, a heart attack will take priority over broken arms and legs etc.
There are private practices in Slovenia provided by independent office-based doctors and specialists. The premises, equipment and personnel are funded largely by private insurance contributions, but it is used only by a small percentage of people because the services are fairly expensive. Private medicine is sometimes used as a top up to the basic state healthcare and to cover them for the services deemed non-essential.
Dentists are known as zubar in Slovenia. Dental care is predominantly private and expensive. Citizens must pay for their treatment. Dentists can be found in the Health centres or through the private healthcare system.
Dispensing chemists known as a lekarna sell medicines in Slovenia. The pharmacies can be recognised by the green cross outside. Only doctors and consultants can prescribe medicine, each doctor has their own prescription number which records the number of prescriptions made; a prescription is known as a recept. Prescription medicine is only available from a qualified and registered chemist or from a hospital pharmacy, however basic medical advice can be given in the pharmacies. All medications, including drugs considered over-the-counter and first aid supplies, are dispensed through pharmacies.