Are you planning to go backpacking or travelling around the world for more than six months? Are you spending your retirement days in Spain in the winter season? Please note that the legislation on your right to receive residence-based social security benefits from Finland changed in early April. What does this social security reform mean in practice in terms of the medical care of persons travelling abroad?
During a temporary residence abroad, you receive treatment as always
With the new law, the limit for temporary residence abroad is lowered from twelve to six months. If you are staying abroad for less than six months, you are generally still covered by Finnish social security. In the EU area, you receive medically necessary treatment by presenting your European Health Insurance Card granted by Kela. You pay the local deductible for the treatment. Medically necessary treatment refers to treatment that you must obtain in order to be able to safely continue your stay in the destination country in accordance with your original plan. In addition to the European Health Insurance Card, you should also obtain travel insurance. Please keep in mind that if you move to work in the EU area, you will generally be covered by the social security of your destination country.
If you are staying outside the EU area for less than six months, you usually retain your right to medical care. If costs are incurred by you in situations of sudden illness, you can apply for reimbursement from Kela afterwards. Please note that the reimbursement often covers only a small portion of the costs. Taking out a travel insurance policy is particularly important when you travel outside the EU or EEA countries or Switzerland.
Residing abroad for more than six months is generally regarded as a permanent stay
If you are residing abroad permanently, i.e. for more than six months, you are generally not entitled to Finnish social security. Previously, staying abroad for more than a year was considered a permanent stay. If you are not covered by Finnish social security, you are also not entitled to any reimbursements from Kela on treatment received abroad. When you move abroad permanently, you are not entitled to the European Health Insurance Card granted by Kela.
With regard to persons who receive a pension from Finland and are moving permanently to another EU or EEA country or Switzerland, Kela will examine the liability for costs of medical care in the future as well. This means consideration for whether the pensioner can receive treatment in their new country of residence and have Finland cover the costs of the treatment. Persons residing abroad for more than six months should find out how to get covered by the health care services in their new country of residence before moving.
If you are staying abroad for a longer period of time, keep in mind that your right to Finnish public health care services is mainly based on your municipality of residence. If you have a municipality of residence in Finland, you will receive treatment in public health care at the same price as the residents of the municipality. When you move abroad, the Local Register Office registers the municipality of residence. Normally, when the length of your stay is shorter than a year, your municipality of residence remains in Finland. If you move to an EU or EEA country or Switzerland permanently, you can request Kela to determine your right to treatment in Finland when you are moving.
The legislative amendment does not apply to certain special groups
The legislative amendment does not apply to certain groups of people residing abroad for a longer period of time. For example, full-time students who complete their entire degree abroad are still covered by the Finnish health insurance for the duration of their studies. Therefore, students completing their degree in the EU area may use the European Health Insurance Card, granted by Kela, for the duration of their studies even if their residence is longer than six months. Students studying outside the EU area may receive reimbursements from Kela in case of a sudden illness.
If necessary, clarify with Kela whether you belong to a special group when residing abroad.
Do not forget to submit a notification of move
You must notify Kela of your move abroad if you are paid any benefits by Kela or have a European Health Insurance Card. Also notify the Local Register Office of your move. Because of the legislative amendment, Kela will, as a rule, no longer make separate decisions on whether somebody is covered by Finnish social security. However, you can check your information concerning your residence in Finland or abroad from Kela’s e-services. In the case of returning from abroad to live in Finland, you will be covered by Finnish social security again when you move to Finland and notify Kela and the Local Register Office of your return.