Life & work
All individuals (including foreign citizens) who are legally employed in Poland are registered with the Polish National Health Fund (NFZ) and entitled to healthcare benefits. If you are employed under a contract of employment or a contract of mandate, your contributions to the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) are deducted from your salary every month. Self-employed individuals are also obliged to register their business with ZUS and to pay their contributions on time.
If you do not fall into any of the above categories (or if you happen to be a non-EU student in Poland) you can register with the National Health Fund on a voluntary basis. In order to do so, you need to submit an application to your local NFZ branch (the addresses can be found at www.nfz.gov. pl) and present a few necessary documents: your passport, a work visa or a residence permit and a confirmation of your student status (if applicable).
Students who have joined the health insurance scheme pay a monthly contribution of around PLN 50. Other individuals are required to pay the full contribution, which amounts to about PLN 450 a month. The following persons are entitled to public health services in Poland:
• lawfully employed workers;
• family members of the insured individual (children, spouse or parents and grandparents – if they live in the same household as the insured);
• individuals insured in other EU countries or EFTA member states.
Citizens of the EU/EFTA countries who are planning a temporary stay in Poland (e.g. students or workers on short-term assignments) may apply for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in their home countries. The card gives you access to free public health services in the 28 EU countries (plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), under the same conditions as all insured citizens of your host country. While the EHIC cannot replace medical travel insurance (it does not cover private or pre-planned medical treatment), it allows you to receive necessary state-funded treatment, if you find yourself in need of one.
In order to be granted a visa, foreigners from non-EU or EFTA member states are obliged to provide proof of travel medical insurance (coverage of at least EUR 30,000), valid throughout their stay in Poland. Regardless of the type of visa they have applied for, the insurance should be valid across all member states of the Schengen area. If you are a third-country national and you happen to fall ill in Poland, your medical expenses will be reimbursed by your insurance company.
During your stay in Poland, you are likely to discover that a lot of Polish residents benefit from both public and private healthcare services. Most of the time, their choice is motivated by practical reasons: on the one hand, private healthcare comes with a number of advantages: reduced waiting times for specialist appointments, faster treatment, modern and more comfortable facilities. On the other hand, it is hardly possible to rely exclusively on private medical insurance as it never covers all health conditions – some more serious illnesses can only be treated in state hospitals and facilities. Apart from that, private health coverage may become very costly in the long run: a single consultation with a general practitioner costs between PLN 80 and PLN 160, depending on your region and healthcare provider. In practice, around half of Polish patients decide to use both options (CBOS, Use of medical services, 2018). Most Poles pay for private dental services and a number of residents opt for private consultations with specialists. Nowadays, it is common for Polish employers to include private healthcare plans in their benefit packages. The option is highly popular with employees and all the more attractive if they can add their family members to the insurance plan.
Some types of medicine can only be sold against a doctor’s prescription. In Poland, prescription drugs are reimbursed by NFZ at different rates. Depending on the type of medication and the reimbursement limit set by NFZ, the medicine may be dispensed free of charge, sold at a flat rate (which means you pay a flat fee of PLN 3.20) or reduced in price by 50% or 30%. Foreigners who are not eligible for healthcare benefits in Poland have to cover the entire cost of the medication. However, they can be reimbursed by their insurance provider back home.
Note that Polish employees cannot “self-certify” their sick leave – it means you are always obliged to provide medical evidence of your illness in order to receive sick pay. Sick pay is covered by your employer for a period not exceeding 33 days in a calendar year and financed in the amount of:
• 80% of your salary or
• 100% of your salary if the absence results from a work-related accident (at work or on the way to/from work), an illness during pregnancy or an examination or operation related to being an organ, cell or tissue donor.
Remember that you need to present the doctor’s certificate to your employer no later than 7 days after the date of issue – otherwise your allowance will be reduced by 25%. If the period of illness extends beyond the above-mentioned limits, you are entitled to receive a sickness allowance (zasiłek chorobowy) financed by the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS).