Health care in Poland is insurance-based and is delivered through a publicly funded health care system. It is free for all the citizens if their health insurance is paid for by their employer, or are the spouse or child of an insured person. The right to healthcare is guaranteed by the Constitution, and citizens are granted equal access. The government is obliged to provide free healthcare to the unemployed, young children, pregnant women, disabled people, students, and the elderly.
The percentage of the population that has insurance is high at 91%, but still lower than in many other European countries.
However, private healthcare use is very extensive in Poland. Patients who are uninsured must pay the full cost of medical services. According to a study conducted by CBOS in 2016, out of 84% of all patients taking the survey, 40% declared use of both private and public health services, 37% use only public, and 7% use only private health services.
The main financing source is health insurance in the National Health Fund. About 70% of health expenses in Poland are covered by the National Health Fund, with the remaining 30% coming from private health insurance.
The management of the public health system is divided between the Minister of Health and three levels of territorial self-government, which is believed to be one of the causes for the delays in the response to problems.
The basis of the healthcare system is the primary care physician, who is most commonly a specialist in family health, and is responsible for conducting treatment, as well as taking preventive actions for assigned patients. If a specialist is required, the first contact doctor issues referral to the specialist. A referral is not needed for oncology, gynaecology, psychiatry, dentistry, or sexually transmitted diseases. Not all dental treatment is covered by the health insurance scheme.
The public healthcare system in Poland faces similar problems and those in other Eastern European countries such as long wait lines, difficult access to specialist physicians and insufficient results in cancer treatment. According to the Euro Health Consumer Index 2018, Poland was 32nd out of 35.
While there have been some improvements – including greater longevity, a decrease in infant mortality and a greater focus on health prevention and promotion – some unfavourable trends and challenges remain such as limited access to care, underfunding and rising dissatisfaction with low salaries among health professionals. The “braindrain” of medical staff to western European countries can also be experienced in Poland, being replaced with specialist from other countries like Ukraine, Georgia, or India.
Current health policy reforms are primarily aimed at tackling the demographic challenges of an aging population, reducing hospital debts, restructuring the health sector and introducing alternative sources of revenue for healthcare financing.
Sources: Wikipedia, healthmanagement.org, OECD