Kasia Marcinko – a relocation expert – answers some frequently asked questions about health care in Poland and the COVID-19 situation in Poland

When you move into a foreign country, one of the necessities is the healthcare service. In Poland, having health insurance is mandatory and also one of the conditions in a visa application process. It is possible to choose from private or public health insurance or even have both. 

Is there any public healthcare system in Poland?

The key element of the public healthcare system in Poland is the National Health Fund (Narodowy Fundusz Zdrowia, NFZ), which is dependent on the Ministry of Health. A registration in NFZ and payment of monthly contribution gives wide access to medical care in Poland.

I work in Poland based on an employment contract. Who pays for the insurance?

It depends on the type of contract. Generally, it is an employer who is obligated to pay for public health insurance for an employee. That means that every month 9% of a salary is taken and paid as a contribution to health insurance. Sometimes as a bonus to an employment contract the company offers access to private healthcare. But if your contract does not cover any health service, you have to obtain it by yourself.

How do I prove I am insured in Poland?

The employer gives you a document called “RMUA” which can be used as proof of being insured but nowadays carrying this document is not necessary as all the data is visible in the general online system.

My family lives in Poland with me, should I buy another insurance for each family member?

No, you do not. When you have access to public healthcare, then insurance covers also your closest family like children, spouse, or parents (only in case they live together and share a household with an insurance’s owner) if they are not insured on other grounds. The contribution rate does not depend on the number of family members added to the insurance.

How to obtain individual public healthcare insurance in Poland?

First, you need to fill the application form and present it together with your identification document in one of the National Health Fund’s offices (NFZ). If you are not an EU/EFTA citizen also bring a document justifying your right to stay in Poland. In case you were insured in the EU/EFTA country before, prepare the confirmation of the last period of insurance. Next, you sign a health insurance agreement in the NFZ office. The last step is to certify at the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) that you signed the agreement. To do so, you submit a form (ZUS ZZA). After doing all that, you can go to register in a clinic.

How to register in a clinic in Poland?

You choose a clinic that has a contract with the NFZ. Many private clinics have a contract with the NFZ too (for primary health care and also some specialised medical services but it differs between clinics). To register yourself in a clinic, bring a document confirming your identity (ID, passport) and proof of your insurance (confirmation of last payment, the agreement with NFZ; if you have a PESEL number, they can check it in the online system). You will be asked to choose a GP (a first-contact doctor) and a nurse, but in general, the choice does not matter, you can have an appointment with any GP in the clinic.

How much does public healthcare insurance in Poland cost?

A contribution can slightly change every quarter. In the period April – June 2020 a monthly payment was PLN 483,09.

What does Polish public health insurance cover?

  • A general practitioner
  • A specialised medical service (apart of gynecologist and obstetrician, oncologist, psychiatrist, venereologist, and dentist a referral – skierowanie – is needed)
  • Some examinations
  • Night healthcare
  • Emergency care
  • Hospital treatment
  • Medical rehabilitation

I obtained a referral (skierowanie), how fast can I have an appointment with a specialist?

It varies on the place in Poland you live and on a doctor’s specialty. If you have only public health insurance, unfortunately, you have to wait from weeks to months to see a doctor as the list of patients is long. Private insurance companies usually enable to see a doctor in a matter of days or even faster.

Where can I buy medications in Poland?

You buy medication in a pharmacy (apteka). Some painkillers and vitamins can be bought in a grocery store, etc. The medical prescription (recepta) can be written on paper with the stamp of a doctor but also can be electronic (in that case, the doctor gives you a number which combined with the PESEL enables you to buy the medication; you can get an electronic prescription for example during a telephone consultation with a doctor). The prescription is valid for only 14 days.

I am an EU/EFTA citizen, do I need any health insurance in Poland?

If you are a student or for a short stay in Poland, you can use your European Health Insurance Card. Be aware that the card does not cover all kinds of treatment. To learn more contact your local health authority.

I am a student, am I insured automatically in Poland?

No, you have to check at your university. If you are an EU/EFTA citizen, your European Health Insurance Card is enough to get medical treatment. If you are a non-EU citizen you should register in the NFZ. The monthly payment is lower for students (PLN 58).

Do I need Polish public health insurance if I bought a private one?

You do not need to do that but in many cases it is convenient. Having private health insurance gives you more flexibility when choosing a doctor, getting an appointment on short notice. Although when serious hospital treatment is needed, not always private insurance covers it. Many Poles decide to have both options – private insurance to have better access to a doctor and public health insurance in case of special circumstances.

If I am pregnant, do I need to give birth in a private hospital in Poland?

The National Health Fund (NFZ) insurance gives a right to deliver a baby in every public hospital in Poland for free. Many moms-to-be prefer to pay additional fees to have a private room or private midwife (these options are available in public hospitals in Poland) but it is not mandatory. Here you can check a list of hospitals in Poland that keep high standards of perinatal care.

Useful vocabulary:

hospital – szpital

medical clinic – przychodnia

general practicioner – lekarz pierwszego kontaktu

nurse – pielęgniarka

midwife – położna

blood test – badanie krwi

paediatrician – pediatra

prescription – recepta

I have a pain (head, stomach, tooth) – boli mnie (głowa, brzuch, ząb)

I need help – potrzebuję pomocy

emergency number 112 – numer ratunkowy 112

I suspect I am infected with coronavirus (I live in Poland). What should I do?

Follow those steps:

  • If it is an emergency and you are experiencing shortness of breath or trouble breathing, do not wait and call 112 or 999 for immediate medical attention.

1. Check if you encounter any SARS-CoV-2 infection symptoms.

The symptoms include high fever, cough, breathlessness, loss of smell, or taste. Less common symptoms are muscle aches, headaches, diarrhea, rash.

2. Contact your Primary Care Physician (GP) via phone (lekarz pierwszego kontaktu).

During a phone consultation (teleporada medyczna), your doctor may qualify you for the coronavirus test. If according to the doctor, it is not a SARS-CoV-2 infection, you may be scheduled for another appointment within 3-5 days of the first and check up again.

In case you have not registered to any clinic, public or private, you can call a clinic close to where you live. All foreigners staying in Poland infected with coronavirus can benefit from free public healthcare, even with no public health insurance.

3. A referral (skierowanie) for a COVID-19 test.

When a doctor gives you a referral to get tested, do not hesitate. Go to the nearby testing point (mobilny punkt pobrań). A map of mobile testing points in Poland. Do your best to avoid public transport, keep social distance on your way to the testing point. Remember to take your passport. To make the process quicker, prepare a piece of paper with your data: name, surname, address in Poland, phone number, and e-mail address.

4. How to prepare for the test so that you do not have to repeat the test? 

At least 2 hours before the test:

  • do not eat,
  • do not drink,
  • do not chew gum,
  • do not rinse your mouth and nose,
  • do not brush your teeth,
  • do not take medication,
  • do not smoke.

5. You will be informed about the results by the clinic where your GP doctor provides services.

6. Positive result

When your test turned out positive, you receive information about further treatment. It could be:

  • referral to the hospital,
  • isolation in an isolator (for people who cannot be quarantined at home),
  • home isolation.

After the 7th day of isolation, but no later than the 10th day, your GP will contact you to check your health condition and to extend the isolation period if it is needed.

7. Negative result

If your test turned out negative but your condition is getting worse, call the doctor again.

I suspect I am infected with coronavirus but I do not have any insurance. What should I do?

You should call a doctor near the place where you stay in Poland. The doctor can prescribe you a test. All epidemiological tests and health services related to COVID-19 are free of charge. For more information call the Ministry of Health hotline – 800 190 590 (24-hour service). Information is also available in English.

Please remember that the healthcare system in Poland is overwhelmed by the pandemic and nothing works well enough. Take care of yourself and your family. Wear a mask, keep social distance, and wash your hands frequently. When you feel sick, call a doctor, and isolate yourself. In case of emergency call 112.

About the Author

Kasia Marcinko is a cross-cultural psychologist and the founder of Happy Life in Poland which offers services for foreigners. Happy Life in Poland‘s team has experience in the field of legalisation of stay and work in Poland as well as a wide range of concierge services.

Kasia has been working with foreign individuals and families coming to work and live in Poland since 2014, first as a Polish teacher for foreigners and now as a relocation assistant.

If you have more questions on that subject or need individual assistance, please contact info@happylifeinpoland.pl.

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