Poland has both public and private health care, however social insurance contributions make up the largest source of healthcare financing. There is also a distinction between outpatient specialised care and inpatient care. One generally receives outpatient specialised care in private medical practices in larger cities or in independent health care facilities.
If you are employed in any manner, even self-employed, you are required to pay contributions into the health insurance system. As of 2005, the mandatory rate of health insurance contributions was 8.5% one’s income base. When you sign a contract with your employer, they are required notify the health insurance system about you, and then pay contributions into a health insurance fund for you. Therefore, you will be receiving free medical care. Still, even though the medical care is free, you will often have to wait awhile in order to receive certain kinds of care. For any kind of publically insured specialist care, there is usually a long waiting list to get in to see the doctor, including even basic examinations. For this reason, many who are able to afford it choose to visit private doctors instead. However, if you find yourself in a life-threatening situation, do not worry about getting in to see a doctor. The emergency department of any hospital will admit you immediately, and if you choose to go see a specialist then they will also have to assist you immediately. Having a PESEL number will make receiving medical care more quick and efficient.
Free medical care is available to citizens of the EU, including Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland (four members of the European Free Trade Association) during their stay in Poland. If you belong to one of the four-mentioned states, you should work on getting an EKUZ CARD ( European Health Insurance Card before you arrive in Poland
If you are a non-EU citizen applying for a visa, it is a good idea to register for health insurance that will be accepted in all states of the EU for the time that you plan to stay. The minimum insurance amount is EUR 30,000 and can be purchased from any foreign or domestic insurance company. You can present the original document and a photocopy to the agent when you apply for a visa.
Public Medical Care – National Health Fund (NFZ)
The National Health Fund (NFZ) is the agency that manages public health services, along with its regional branches. Then the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) is responsible for collecting the monetary contributions that fund the NFZ. Health insurance contributions for individuals who are not covered by the standard scheme are funded by the government through taxes. Everyone who is employed in Poland must meet the obligations of paying into and receiving health insurance. After you begin a new job, your employer is required to notify the government that you are an employed individual. This means that a portion of your wages will automatically be deducted from the Social Insurance Institution. Even if you are a foreigner moving to Poland you are eligible to apply to the National Health Fund in order to receive public health services; however, this would also usually be managed through your employer.
If your employment is terminated for any reason, then your insurance will be inactive 30 days after the termination date of your employment contract.
If you are self-employed, then you are required to pay your contribution to the Social Insurance Institution on time.
As a general rule, if you receive treatment as an injured person within the National Health Fund it is paid for through medical insurance funds and will not cost you anything. However, there are some cases where you will have to pay out of pocket. The NFZ releases a list of covered benefits that are approved by the Ordinance of the Minister of Health. If the service you receive is not on that list, then you will have to cover the charges yourself. And of course, if you seek treatment at the hospital without being covered by the National Health Fund, then you will be responsible for the entire cost of treatment.
Voluntary insurance with the National Health Fund
In the event that you are in Poland without valid health insurance, it might be a good option to sign up for voluntary health insurance with the National Health Fund. This will help you avoid high medical bills in case you are involved in a sudden accident or contract a serious illness.
In order to apply for coverage with the National Health Fund (NFZ), you will need to turn in an application to the NFZ branch that’s closest to where you live. If you are not a citizen of the European Union, then you will also have to provide them with a copy of your passport and your visa or residence permit. Once you sign the official agreement with the NFZ, you will then have to submit a ZUS the ZZA form to the Social Insurance Institution.
European Union citizens who have either lost their jobs or have not yet secured employment can register as unemployed person with the Labour office in order to get health insurance for both themselves and their children. You will then have to show this certificate of insurance from the Labour Office to any doctor you receive services from.
You can find more information about the required contribution amount and due dates of payment at your local NFZ Branch.
Choosing a clinic and primary care physician
Primary health care includes examinations and consultations with a general practitioner. This doctor may also refer you out to a specialist, to undergo diagnostic testing, or to a hospital. Once you register with the Social Insurance Institution, in order to receive care and have it properly billed, you must also establish your primary care physician by registering with a clinic. In order to do this, take your passport, residence card, and proof of insurance contribution to the clinic of your choice (which you will get from your employer). Also having your PESEL number ready will make registering faster, and your future visits with the doctor more efficient. The clinic will have an application form for you to fill out, and once turned in you can begin to get the full benefits from your insurance. It will be easiest to choose whatever clinic is closest to where you live, granted that they have an active contract with the National Health Fund (NFZ).
Keep in mind that once you register at your clinic of choice, any immediate family members you have (children, spouse, parents, or grandparents) can also receive health services at that clinic so long as they do not have health insurance through any other means. However, if you want them to be able to use your health insurance, make sure to report them as dependents to your employer so he or she can properly report them to the National Health Fund Institution.
Choosing a doctor/nurse/midwife:
You have the right to choose your own clinic, doctor, nurse, and midwife, as a member of the National Health Fund. To do this, you made an official declaration of choice, which you can do at the same time you register at the clinic. Once you arrive, ask who is in charge of registration and he or she will get you the appropriate forms to make your declarations.
The family doctor, internist, and paediatrician
Many people do not know that a family doctor, internist, and pediatrician are all operating under different specialties. Family medicine doctors can serve both adults and children and usually handle a wider range of services than internists or pediatricians. Internists, on the other hand, only treat adults, and pediatricians only treat children. Also, keep in mind that any child who attends a Polish school can get free health care through the NFZ.
For many specialists, you will need a referral from your primary care doctor. However, there is no referral required for the following specialists:
and for the following persons:
suffering from tuberculosis
infected with HIV
war invalids and persecuted persons
addicted to alcohol, stupefacient’s and psychoactive substances – in case of addiction treatment.
Standard services at a dentist are covered as long as they have a contract with the NFZ. You can find a list of these covered services on their website. Anything beyond a covered standard service will have to be paid for out of pocket. Make sure to show then your EKUZ (European Health Insurance)Card or a replacement certificate.
If you are a student, you can opt yourself into the National Health Insurance Fund in order to get free health care.
How to sign a contract with the National Health Fund?
Get a document proving your student status from the Dean’s Office.
Bring your student status document, along with your student ID, passport, visa, and residence permit to the nearest branch of the National Health Fund.
Ask to complete the application for voluntary insurance.
Make an appointment to return to the branch (chosen by the National Health Fund) to sign your voluntary insurance agreement.
Within 7 days of signing the voluntary insurance agreement, you will need to submit a ZUS ZZA form to the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) in order to officially register with them.
As long as you follow these steps of the signing of an agreement with the National Health Fund, and then you pay your contributions on time, as a student, you have the right to get free medical care in Poland from clinics that have a contract with the NFZ (they should be appropriately marked as such).
Going to the doctor, you must have a copy of the agreement with the NFZ with you, as well as a blank application form for the Social Insurance Institution and a confirmation of the last month’s contribution fee. If you go on a holiday or want to stop paying the collection fees at any time, then you can request to complete the application to resign from your contract.
If you want more flexibility, and you are financially able to do so, you can also sign up with any private insurance company. These companies have a variety of plans with several options.
Europejska Karta Ubezpieczenia Zdrowotnego – EKUZ (The European Health Insurance Card – EHIC) serves as confirmation that you can receive basic health care services covered by the National Health Fund while you visit other EU/EFTA member states. To get your EKUZ card, you have to be a European Union citizen who is registered with the National Health Fund. Note that non-EU citizens cannot use the EKUZ card. If you are a non-EU citizen traveling abroad, your only option is to purchase travel insurance from a private company. Keep in mind that medical facilities outside of the Republic of Poland will operate differently, according to the standards of their own country. The EKUZ card is only valid for 2 months. For some, the card can be prolonged up to 5 years (e.g. students, retired people, and pensioners).
How to get an EKUZ card
First, you need to complete the EKUZ application form, which will need to either be signed by you or an authorized person. You can find the application form at the following website:
Collect your EKUZ card at the National Health Fund branch once it is ready.
Under certain circumstances, you can get a Temporary Replacement Certificate for the European Health Insurance Card (EKUZ). This is possible if:
You were unable to get an EKUZ card before you left the country, or you forgot to apply for one and you need to confirm that you can receive and pay for health care.
Your EKUZ card was lost, stolen, or destroyed accidentally.
Certain vaccinations in Poland are mandatory. Mandatory vaccinations are free of charge. The rules apply to children and young people up to the age of 19, and people who are regularly in an at-risk environment, such as medical students, or veterinary and hospital staff members. Any foreigners under the age of 19, who plan to stay in Poland for longer than 3 months, also need to get the obligatory vaccinations. It is also possible to bring a vaccine you purchased yourself to be administered at the clinic, in the event that you do not want to take the vaccine distributed by the Ministry of Health. If you fail to get the mandatory vaccinations when required, then you may receive a fine for not doing so.
The mandatory vaccinations required for Poland are for:
The Ministry of Health also recommends getting these other non-mandatory vaccinations:
In order to receive these vaccinations, you will first need to get a prescription from the doctor, go purchase it from the pharmacy, and then bring it back to the clinic so they can administer it to you.
Basic healthcare during night time and holidays
You can find basic healthcare assistance between the hours of 18:00 to 8:00 on weekdays, and at all hours on public holidays. It can be used under the following circumstances:
You first tried home remedies or over-the-counter medicines, and they did not improve your situation
You believe that waiting to visit the clinic until regular business hours would have significant negative effects on your health.
In these off-hours health care centers, you have the right to obtain a sick-leave note (sometimes referred to as the L4) from your doctor stating what kind of care you received, and why he/she agrees that you do not have the capacity to go to work.
Private medical care
You can find several private medical facilities that will prove you with health care for a certain fee. For example, a visit to a general practitioner would cost between 80 – 150 pln, depending on the service you get. Many Polish citizens take advantage of these facilities. The main reason is that it offers you more choice over where and who provides you with care. For example, it might be easier to find a doctor who speaks your language if you go through private health care. Private clinics provide information on what languages their doctors speak on their websites, so you can do some research before you make a decision. There are also several private health care companies from which you can buy insurance, and they will help you access private medical care more easily.
Unless you’ve been in an accident, or your situation is life-threatening, you will need a referral from your primary care doctor to receive treatment at a hospital. If you don’t have private insurance, make sure to go to a hospital that has a contract with the NFZ and show your EKUZ (European Health Insurance Card) or a replacement certificate in order to receive care. Then during your stay, any operations, diagnostic tests, or medicines are free of charge to you.
Assistance in life-threatening situations
If there are signs that your health is rapidly deteriorating, and you believe that it could result in serious damage to your body, including loss of life, then you can access emergency health care assistance. To receive this care, you can gain immediate admission to see a specialist in their office, or you can go to the hospital’s emergency department.
Important: Only call an ambulance if you believe you are in serious danger of losing a bodily function, or your life. It is only in these cases that medical transport is free of charge. If you do not believe your situation is a serious medical emergency, then you should instead visit your primary care doctor.
To call for assistance, dial 999 or 112 and give the operator on the other end of the line the following information:
Your location (address, or any notable nearby landmarks).
Describe the condition of the person needing assistance, as well as their name.
Your first and last name.
If you are insured through your employment in Poland, then it will be sufficient for you to just provide the operator with your PESEL number. If you do not have the PESEL number, make sure that you have proof of insurance (such as an insurance policy card, or a ZUS ZUA) on you at all times in case of emergency. If you do not have insurance through your work or a private insurance policy, emergency services are still obligated to provide you with care, but you will have to pay for it yourself.
You will need to check in first with the admission point of a facility when seeking medical assistance, as they are in charge of all the preliminary diagnostics and formalities regarding admitting patients. They are always very clearly marked within the hospital buildings. Their addresses are always located online at the website of the hospital or medical care facility.
You can get a prescription at a pharmacy if it has been issued by either a doctor who currently works in the health care system or a doctor who used to have a contract with the NFZ allowing him to issue prescriptions. You must purchase the prescribed medication within 30 days of the issue date. With an antibiotic prescription, you must purchase it from the pharmacy within 7 days. Make sure to show both your prescription and your EKUZ (European Health Insurance Card) or a replacement certificate when you go to the pharmacy. Please check our section HOSPITALS AND PHARMACIES for 24/7 pharmacies in Warszawa, Kraków, and Wrocław
International agreements on social security
Certain countries have signed bilateral international social security agreements. Therefore if you have worked in two countries that have signed one of these agreements, then you are allowed to receive social benefits, such as pensions or health care, in both of the countries.
If you have worked in two countries while there was an active agreement on social security, but that agreement has since concluded, you can still work in both countries without fear of losing any of your benefits in the future.
You can find information on which countries have signed an agreement with the Republic of Poland at the following website: https://lang.zus.pl/en/
Helping people suffering from domestic violence
If you are experiencing domestic violence, it is good to know that there are certain organizations in Poland that offer free assistance in escaping your situation. Do not hesitate to seek their assistance if you are in trouble. The assistance they offer is for both children and adults. This can be either psychological or legal, with specialists helping to inform you about your rights, and figuring out a solution to get you out of your difficult situation. If you seeking help, please check the link below https://eucpn.org/document/polish-policy-on-domestic-violence
There are help centers in Poland that can provide you with psychiatric assistance when you need it.
They can help people and their family members with any emotional problems that arise, including people with a history of mental illness. If you visit the center, they will first assess you and then provide you with the assistance that is specific to your individual needs by formulating a plan of treatment that will help you recover and return to your pace of life before the crisis.
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