SGK – the ups and downs

SGK Turkish Social InsuranceBlimey! Wherever you look just lately – Facebook; forums; you name it – there are folks getting themselves into a right old pickle about the SGK (Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu) and the compulsory health insurance issue.

As someone who has been ‘in the system’ for some while I can assure you that it works. I can also assure you that from my own experiences the hospital/clinic treatment that you get here in Turkey makes the UK’s NHS look like a broken down, third-world shambles. Has it all been plain-sailing? No! There has been the odd glitch, but nothing to get overly stressed by.

J and I mostly choose to attend a local private hospital because we know the staff, they know us, it’s convenient and we get escorted and helped at every stage and we get seen instantly (well, almost). They also have state-of-the-art equipment, which is reassuring at our age! For all this we pay a very modest additional sum  directly to the hospital. Essentially it is the difference between what the SGK pays and the hospital’s displayed scale of charges. There are loads of Turks of modest means in our area who do the same – so you can see that the extra is not much and the service is popular.

The current issues around compulsion/private/state aside, I can tell you that J and I are more than happy and very reassured to be part of Turkish Health Insurance system. ‘So,’ I hear you ask, ‘is there a downside?’ I’m not going to lie to you . . . Yes!

Paying the monthly premium!

Some of you will have Turkish bank accounts and you’ll probably be able to pay by standing order/direct debit – Good luck! Based on a good many years of experience, both personal and second/third hand, I wouldn’t let a Turkish bank anywhere near a standing order of mine, let alone any of my money, ever again! We’ve been burnt once too often!

The trade off is that J and I have to pay directly at a branch of Ziraat Bank (the only one authorised to take cash payments for SGK) each month. If the gods are feeling benign towards us the branch will be quiet and we’ll get to a teller fairly stressed outquickly – if they are doubly benign we’ll get the same teller as last month and they won’t have to vanish on a half-hour training course again in order to deal with us. If the gods are triply benign the computer system won’t be malfunctioning and we won’t have sat there, clutching our ticket, for an hour, willing the display to click on a few more customers, and all to no avail, as we did today! Oh! and don’t even think of nipping out for a quick coffee or to pop to the supermarket whilst you wait – you may well have another sixty punters ahead of you and you may very well only be gone for five minutes, but I guarantee, based on bitter experience, that when you get back that display will have clicked on and you’ll need to get a new ticket and start over!

Anyway, if I’m going to be stressed out and lining myself up for a heart attack, I’d much rather be here in Turkey, where I’ll get sorted quickly and professionally, than in the UK where there’s a three week waiting list to see the doctor (I think I’m dying, doc! – Have you made an appointment? Sorry!) and a couple of months wait before the test results come back! Just like the climate, the scenery and the people, there are some things here in Turkey that leave us utterly spoilt.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü