The Czech Republic runs a two-tier health system. The state health insurance looks after people for their basic needs, and offers a high level of care; but some people also choose to opt for private cover.If you do take out private health insurance in the Czech Republic, here are a few tips to make sure your premiums don’t creep too high.
The largest provider of private health insurance in the Czech Republic is VZP, which also serves as the largest public health provider. Their private wing is known as PVZP and offers additional cover should you require it. You can also choose to take out a policy with another local health provider, or with one of the larger international companies such as Cigna or BUPA.
Private health insurance generally will not cover you for pre-existing medical conditions: for these, you will need to use your public healthcare, or find a package that does include this. Pre-existing conditions can make a policy very expensive, though, so if you have the option of going with the public system for this element of your health insurance then that is an excellent way to keep costs down. Some private insurers, including PVZP, will refuse to cover pre-existing medical conditions at all.
PVZP specialises in healthcare for expats, and they have English-speaking representatives who can help you to choose a plan that caters to your needs. Both short- and long-term plans are available, so if you already know how long you will be staying in the Czech Republic — for example, if you are there for a work assignment — then see if you can save money by only taking out cover for the amount of time you need. In some cases, the opposite might be true: if your insurer charges less by the year than by the quarter, for example, then it might make sense to take out cover for a full year even if you plan to leave after nine months.
The private healthcare system is a relatively recent addition to the Czech Republic’s health offerings, and it was brough into play to decrease competition within the public system. The Czech Republic is increasingly becoming a popular medical tourism destination, both for tourists from Central and Eastern Europe, since it has the highest reputation in the region; and for people from the US, who find the comparatively low prices to be a tempting option.
This means that if you take out private health insurance, you will be competing with medical tourists to see the specialists you choose. At the moment this does not present too much of an issue, and waiting times to see private doctors are reported to be shorter than those in the public system, but as the country grows in popularity for medical tourists this could start to have an impact.
Optional extras are one of the most obvious things to remove from a policy to keep premiums low. Pregnancy and maternity care is an expensive add-on to many plans, so if you are not planning to have a family, look at removing this. Even if you do choose to have a baby in the Czech Republic, the public health system will look after you before, during and after the birth, so you might not need to include private care as well.
Dental care can be fairly costly, too, adding up to €500 to your overall premiums. If your teeth are generally healthy and you only visit the dentist for occasional checkups, then you might prefer to pay out-of-pocket for these rather than taking out cover. Emergency dental treatments such as tooth loss and necessary surgery will always be covered by the state.
Many insurance plans will offer to cover your children as well, however state healthcare is completely free for minors under the age of 16, so this might not be something you need. Private healthcare does give you access to more specialists if anything goes wrong, though, and it might also offer a higher level of preventive care and general check-ups.
Medical evacuation, and repatriation of remains if you die abroad, are touchy subjects for many people but are also worth thinking seriously about if you want to keep your premiums low. Even if it is very important to you to be buried back in your home country, you might want to look at the small print in your insurance documents to see whether there are any other changes you can make.
A lot of companies that offer medical evacuation do so both ways: if you fall ill in the Czech Republic, they will take you back to your home country; but also if you fall ill abroad (but not in your home country) while you are living there, they will take you back to the Czech Republic for treatment. If you do not plan to do a lot of travelling while you are living in the Czech Republic, then simply buying one-off travel insurance for the times when you are abroad can help to keep these premiums low.
Since 2008, there have been flat fees for certain non-emergency options within the state health system. These include some walk-in appointments with doctors after hours, and a charge for picking up a prescription. There are exemptions to these fees, such as for those on a very low income and children with chronic illnesses, however if you are otherwise in good health and you earn enough to fall into the standard income bracket then you will need to pay these fees upfront.
Private insurance is one way to avoid this, so if you have to take a lot of prescription medication, for example, it might be a good idea to take out a policy that covers this. Likewise there is a small charge for each day spent in hospital, and although these nominal charges do not seem like much, they can add up.
Cost sharing options with insurance companies mean that you can claim back some of these fees after you have paid them. If you already have an insurance policy, check whether there is an optional add-on to cover these costs, and whether it would make more financial sense in the long run.
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