One apple a day keeps the doctor away… And although Poland is known for its delicious apples, taking care of your health may require a bit more than that. Fortunately, Polish healthcare system is based on a good standard of
medical services. How to use them in order to preserve health, to protect against the effects of diseases and to treat various illnesses?
Healthcare is guaranteed by the constitution and all medical activities are overseen by the Polish Ministry of Health, while a general health insurance is widespread in the country. The National Health Fund (Polish: Narodowy Fundusz Zdrowia; NFZ) is in charge of managing the publicly funded insurance scheme, but it is not obligatory to use this kind of service. Private health insurance plans are gaining more and more popularity at the moment. Which one is more suitable for foreigners?
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Public healthcare plans
Individuals entitled to the general insurance and healthcare services financed from public funds are defined by the law from 27 August 2004 on healthcare services financed from public funds. Every person who pays contributions to the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) is provided with health insurance in NFZ. If you are employed under a regular employment contract or a civil law contract (Polish: umowa zlecenie), your employer is obliged to pay your contribution for you. Employer reports all newly recruited employees to the Social Insurance Institution by filling in the application form called ‘ZUS ZUA’.
Once you are registered, every time you visit a hospital or a clinic you will need to present some kind of ID (personal ID, passport or student ID), which will enable the staff to check your status in the system. Foreigners coming to Poland with their family have a right to add relatives to their healthcare plan. This applies to children (until they are 18 y.o.; or 26 y.o. provided they pursue higher education), spouses as well as parents or grandparents (if they reside in the same household).
It is also possible to join the state-run NFZ healthcare system if you are not employed or you are a student. You will need to present a written application along with your ID or student status confirmation. This option is paid (approximately PLN 50/month if you are a student) but guarantees wide access to numerous public facilities all around Poland.
If you require medical help, you should be directed to one of the following institutions:
a clinic (or health centre), which provides basic and specialised healthcare;
an emergency – it provides assistance in case of an accident, an injury, a childbirth, an illness, deterioration of health, or a threat to life. In case of emergency you can dial the universal European number 112 or Polish emergency telephone number 999;
a medical diagnostic laboratory.
Sometimes getting to public health specialist services is provided on the basis of a referral from a doctor. You do not need a referral to doctors like: gynaecologist, obstetrician, dentist, venereologist, psychiatrist and oncologist. A referral is a written instruction - a medical form filled in by a GP in order to make diagnostic tests, to take consultation with a medical specialist, to get hospital treatment, treatment in a specialist clinic, sanatorium treatment or rehabilitation. Referrals are not needed in private health facilities, which are discussed below.
Private health insurance
In Poland voluntary or private health insurance is an insurance which enables to receive free (or partially reimbursed by the insurance company) access to selected medical institutions and medical services depending on the insurance coverage. This kind of medical subscription is quite popular, especially among foreigners. Insurers develop an offer in cooperation with private institutions providing medical services under these subscriptions.
It is very often your employer who may provide you with a medical package which is based on private healthcare services. It is a popular benefit in many companies, which may also allow to insure family members as well once you cover some extra costs. Although it might require paying some extra money, many Poles choose this option, as it guarantees more comfort and reduces waiting times for getting an appointment. From a foreigner’s perspective, it may be better to get a healthcare plan in a private medical facility, as their staff and doctors are usually able to provide services in English. In regular state-run hospitals and clinics, especially outside major cities, foreigners may still experience language barrier, although the situation is gradually improving.
Short stay in Poland?
If you come from the EU or European Free Trade Association you can use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) within the territory of 28 European Union countries and in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. This card gives you the right to use (at the same price as insured citizens do) healthcare services during your temporary stay in Poland.