Health Insurance

I normally write happy lovely things about Romania and Romanian culture. I love it here. I love the people, the scenery, the food, everything.

But I have to get something off my chest.

I want to talk about the healthcare system in Romania. I’ve been trying to navigate it now for two months and I finally have some grasp on how the system works. Maybe.

Let me paint you a picture of frustration.

First, let’s start with the residence permit. In order to apply for the permit, I had to have proof of health insurance. We went to the place where you pay your tax to get the insurance and they told me that I had to have a Romanian ID number before I could apply.

Okay…so I need to have the residence permit before I can get the health insurance and I need the insurance before I can apply for the permit. Makes total sense.

I ended up getting three months of private health insurance so I could apply for the permit. Bine.

By the way, when we went to the place to pay the tax for the health insurance, the woman was convinced that they “didn’t do that here” (in Romanian, this famous phrase is “nu se poate” i.e. it’s not possible or it’s not going to happen). After some insistence from Claudiu that yes, they do indeed do tax for insurance there, she asked a colleague who provided us more information (and yes, they do the taxes there, lol – just not for me, the non-residence permit holding foreigner).

So when I got the permit, I was very excited to get the health insurance. I had two weeks to prove to the immigration office that I had paid the tax and obtained the insurance, so we started right away. First, we had to go to an office where I requested the insurance. They couldn’t find me. Nope, not in any system. Hahaha. Sometimes you just have to laugh. She called another office where they were able to find me in the system,so she was then able to give us a paper to take to another office where we’d pay the tax. Because for whatever reason (sigh), they don’t accept the taxes there.

We drove twenty minutes to the tax office and we were guided into the back of the office and I paid my 800ish lei for a year of insurance. I got a lovely paper with some neato stamps and they told us to take it to another office to get another paper.

What.

Okay, so the next day, we went to this new office and waited in line until we spoke with another woman who gave us another piece of paper. However, this paper wasn’t finished because we needed to get five signatures on it and the people who needed to sign had gone home for the day (it was 3pm).

Bright and early the next morning, we went to the Office of Signatures which is located in a building with the most confusing layout. We went up (and down?!) the maze of stairs to get to Narnia, I mean, this special office where signatures live and waited an hour for the paper to get signed. Eventually, it came back to us, like a work of art. Five beautiful signatures. No idea who the people were that signed it or why they had to sign it, but whatever. I got it!

With the magical piece of signed paper, I can now see a family doctor. How it works in Romania is that everyone has a family doctor. You have to see this doctor to get recommendations for other kinds of doctors (endocrinologist, ob-gyn, etc.). So I found a family doctor (she is lovely and helpful) and she made all the recommendations. She printed official papers so that I could make appointments. At no point has anyone told me I need anything else – no other papers, cards, proof of anything, etc.

I got to the first appointment. At the front desk, the first thing they ask for is my insurance card. ??? Insurance card?? According to the receptionist, because I have no card that means I have no “proof” of insurance and I have to pay full price. Mamaliga ma-tii.

Keep in mind that I had a recommendation for this appointment from my family doctor – you can’t get a family doctor unless you have the health insurance. So even though that logic makes perfect sense to most people, the front desk insisted that I had to have the card to prove that I have insurance. The next day, we went back to the office and asked for the money back because there is a way to look me up in the system to see if I have insurance. They did – and lo, and behold, I am insured.

So – the cards. They don’t give them to foreigners. Only Romanian citizens get them. So what am I supposed to do? I guess I’ll just face this problem every time. Including every time I go to the pharmacy where I have to put in my Romanian health insurance card to get the medicine my doctor prescribed for me. Hilariously enough, it just has to be a number. A very nice gentleman behind me at the pharmacy offered to put his number in so I could get my pills. A stranger. What sense does that even make? What is the point of putting in a number if it means nothing? Why put any number at all? Because (according to the pharmacist) without the number, it’s nu se poate.

So friends, there it is. The Romanian health care system.

(BIG SIGH)

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