The healthcare system in Latvia runs in two streams: there are services provided by the state and municipalities that can be obtained by all permanent residents free of charge, and private medical institutions that one needs to pay for.
State-funded medical treatment is available through referral by the patient's family doctor (see next section) but may be time-consuming as queues for treatments are often several months long. Faster treatments are possible via the private route which means paying out of your own pocket, but can be at least partially covered by a medical insurance (see section on International Healthcare, Medical Insurance).
General practitioners (GPs), known as family doctors, are the primary healthcare providers in Latvia. Every resident can choose a doctor of their preference; this selection needs to be confirmed by formal registration and is free of charge. It is not possible to be registered with several family doctors.
As the family doctor services are covered by the state, a visit to the doctor costs only a patient contribution of 1.42 EUR. Doctor visits usually need to be scheduled in advance, unless the family doctor has specified free drop-in hours.
The family doctor can refer the patient to see a specialist by issuing a letter of referral. This enables the patient to receive state funded medical treatment and costs a patient contribution of 4.27 EUR. If the patient visits the same specialist during one period of illness only one referral letter is required.
There are some specialists that can be visited without a letter of referral, most notably, gynecologists, ophthalmologists, and children's surgeons. Furthermore, if the amount of yearly patient contributions exceeds 569.15 EUR the patient may be exempt from making further contributions that calendar year.
Visits to the dentist and the dental hygienist are state funded only for children under the age of 18; all others have to cover the costs themselves. That said, some of these services can be at least partially covered by medical insurance (see section on International Healthcare, Medical Insurance).
With so much to deal with before leaving your home country, (taxes, moving house, paperwork etc.) the careful planning of your expatriation to Riga is an essential step. As far as healthcare is concerned, your local social security scheme won’t be accompanying you to your host country and, once abroad, you might be surprised by the care system you find in Latvia. So, before leaving, make sure you have appropriate cover!
EasyExpat.com works in partnership with APRIL International to provide specific insurance solutions for travelling or staying outside your country of nationality.
Designed for either short or long stays, APRIL International’s insurance policies offer protection against any problems that might arise before departure or during your time in Latvia: cancelling your trip, medical expenses following an illness or accident, needing to be repatriated, causing damage to a third party or losing your luggage.