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Using The Healthcare System In the Czech Republic – A Short Guide For Expats

The Czech Republic is known to have one of the best systems of healthcare in Central Europe. Employers are expected to provide nearly universal insurance coverage to employees who are Czech Republic citizens. The quality of healthcare is equivalent to general European standards, and hospitals and clinics are well-staffed with highly trained professionals.

In the Czech Republic, even dental care is included under healthcare coverage and it is free for all citizens. The healthcare system operates through contributions to an insurance fund managed by the state. These contributions are compulsory.The cost of healthcare is low compared to other European countries, but the quality of healthcare is quite high. The overall state of health in the Czech Republic has improved in recent times since the government launched a number of preventative health programs that emphasize vaccination, cancer prevention, the adverse effects of smoking and the importance of regular health check-ups. However, home-based healthcare is not a well-developed field. Doctors rarely make house calls and there is not much provision of nursing care for terminal patients at home.

State healthcare system
All citizens of the Czech Republic are required to make compulsory contributions to a state approved health insurance company. The state-owned General Health Insurance Company (GHIC) or všeobecná zdravotní pojišťovna covers the majority of the population. The Ministry of Health specifies the level of healthcare that the company must impart to clients. Registered foreign students and companies that have a base in the country must also make contributions. The groups exempt from payments are dependent children, elderly pensioners, disabled individuals and students under the age of 26.

Nationals of other countries who live in the Czech Republic but do not have permanent residency, and also those who are not employed, do not meet the eligibility criteria for state-funded healthcare. But they can choose one of two contract-based health insurance schemes provided by GHIC.

The Czech healthcare system functions similarly to a private healthcare system since it is decentralized. Citizens make payments directly to the company and the company pays the treatment providers directly. Therefore there are no reimbursements.

Doctors and specialists
To avail themselves of state-funded healthcare, citizens must register with a doctor. Doctors then enter into contracts with insurance companies. The doctor will then inform the insurance company about the treatment he or she provides to the patients, and the insurer pays the doctor directly. Patients can visit specialist doctors of their own accord; a referral from a general physician is not necessary.

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Doctors refer patients to hospitals. There are general hospitals located across the country. There are also many specialist hospitals that treat chronic illnesses and mental health issues, and provide physiotherapeutic care and recuperation for patients with respiratory conditions such as tuberculosis. Since hospitals also have contracts with insurance companies, patients are not required to pay for treatment.

Czech medical facilities have attained global recognition for pioneering many procedures, such as the first robot-assisted surgery and a three-organ transplant from a single donor. The Czech Republic was also the first country to employ the Ampli chip device that evaluates if a certain drug can be administered to a patient.

Emergency services
Emergency treatment is available in urban areas at the emergency departments of hospitals. This also includes emergency dental care.

Health services at organizations
The Ministry of Health advocates awareness about work-related illnesses and injuries, and works with organizations to protect employees against poor health. Companies and organizations undergo routine inspections to ensure that the workplace remains a healthy and safe environment. Employees also undergo medical check-ups.

There is a network of pharmacies throughout the country, and prescription and over-the-counter medicines are available here. Doctors are allowed to prescribe over 40,000 medicines. These may be available at subsided rates or may even be free if they are included in a private health insurance plan. Remember that prescriptions are only valid for short-term periods. Medicines prescribed by emergency departments expire after a day. Antibiotic prescriptions are valid for three days and all other prescriptions can be used for up to a week.

Pharmacies in the Czech Republic have two counters, one for prescription medicines and one for over-the-counter medicines. Pharmacists are required to inform customers about recommended dosages and possible side effects when buying over-the-counter medicines.

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