The Czech Republic has ranked highly in a variety of studies about healthcare around the world, and usually comes first in Central Europe. It is an increasingly popular medical tourism destination, particularly for people from the USA and from Central and Eastern European nations.Expats in the Czech Republic will be able to take full advantage of the public health system there. Like many other countries in Europe, the Czech Republic operates on a two-tier system, meaning that most healthcare is covered by the state insurance but people can also opt to take out private medical cover.
State healthcare is covered by seven different organisations, but regulated by the government. You can choose which state insurer you want to be covered by. The VZP (Všeobecna Zdravotní Pojištovna) is the most popular choice among expats and locals alike, since it is the largest insurer in the country. The VZP also has a private wing, known as the PVZP, which offers private cover to those who are not eligible for state healthcare.
If you are working in the Czech Republic, your company should deduct your health insurance contributions from your pay. They will probably also decide which health insurer your policy will be with. If you are self-employed, then you will need to sort out payments for yourself.
The minimum payment is CZK 1,803 if you are employed by someone else’s company, or CZK 2,208 if you work for yourself. If you have no taxable income, then you still need to pay for health insurance: this is set at the same rate as employed persons. If you have extenuating circumstances that mean you cannot pay this amount — for example, if you are on benefits, you are disabled, or you are a caregiver — then the state will pay these contributions for you.
You will need to register as a resident of the Czech Republic before you can register with a doctor. Once you have your proof of residency, you can take this to your local VZP office and sign up with them, or find the nearest office for one of the other state health insurance companies if you choose to go with one of them instead. Upon registering, you will receive a health insurance card, which you will need to take with you to your medical appointments.
When you have signed up with an insurer, you can then register with a doctor. However, not all doctors work with all insurance companies, so you will need to ask your insurer or do some research online to find out which doctors in your area will allow you to register. Once you have worked this out, simply book an appointment and take your proof of ID, proof of residency and health insurance details along with you.
You will now be able to visit your doctor to deal with any health-related complaints. Sometimes your doctor will refer you to a specialist if you need extra treatment, but in the Czech Republic many doctors’ surgeries have more medical equipment than you might expect to find in a surgery in the UK, for example. You do not need a referral from your doctor in order to see a specialist, but there is no centralised record of medical notes, so if you do self-refer then you will find that your doctor has no record of your visit to the specialist, and this could delay any treatment you need.
Visits to the doctor are free at the point of service: you do not need to pay upfront and then be reimbursed. There is a small charge for prescriptions, and if you need to see a doctor outside of their practice hours then you might need to pay a fee for that as well.
You can sign up for private health insurance online if you opt to go with PVZP, the country’s largest private insurer. All you will need to do is fill in a form, receive a quote, and then pay the upfront cost. There is a discount — up to 20% — for applying online, and this is an increasingly popular option for expats.
If you can afford to pay annually rather than monthly, the savings can be well worth the original outlay. In some cases, you will save over 50% if you pay annually.
Unlike in some other countries, most private insurers will cover pre-existing conditions. However, this is a different level of cover from the usual ‘comprehensive’ package. It is known as ‘exclusive’ and the process of signing up is much more involved. You will need to go for a complete medical check-up before you will be given a quote.
Once you have signed up, you will receive a health insurance card, which you will need to take with you to your medical appointments. If you forget to bring your card, the doctor is allowed to turn you away, unless it is an emergency. Children and other dependents will need their own cards, and you will have to bring these to their appointments too. A copy of your child’s insurance card will also be kept by their school.
Many doctors work in both the public and private sectors, so you can expect the same quality of care regardless of whether you take out private health insurance. However, if you want to see a specific specialist, or if you want to upgrade your care (for example, paying for a single room in hospital), then private care might be a good option for you.
The Czech health system is known for its long waiting times, too, and this is another reason why some people opt for private care.
Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!