If you are planning to study in the Czech Republic, it’s important to understand the health care system and how it can affect you.
The Czech Republic has one of the best healthcare systems in Central Europe, and Czech citizens enjoy nearly universal insurance coverage through their employers. The quality of care offered by Czech hospitals is on par with the rest of Europe, and the country has a relatively high number of physicians and nurses so that care is widely available.
Citizens of the Czech lands have received some manner of socialized health insurance since the late nineteenth century, when the region was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today, the Czech Republic’s Social Health Insurance (SHI) provides citizens with healthcare through compulsory membership to one of several health insurance funds. Czech citizens obtain membership through their jobs, and both employers and employees make contributions. The government of the Czech Republic makes contributions on behalf of the unemployed so that coverage is essentially universal.
Although high unemployment and other economic factors consistently cause financial instability, the Czech Republic’s total health expenditure is low relative to Western Europe (6.7% of GDP in 2007). In an effort to solve chronic financing problems, the health system requires private payment for over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, has implemented user fees for doctor visits and other services, and is generally moving toward greater cost sharing.
Healthcare in the Czech Republic is generally on par with the rest of Europe, although several of its key health indicators are better than EU averages, and the country’s infant mortality rate ranks among the best in the world. The proportions of physicians and nurses to the rest of the population is high relative to European averages, and most primary care services are provided by private practice physicians.
The Czech healthcare system offers both public and private hospitals, but most have been privatized. In fact, since the 1990s, hospitals that were once owned by the state have come under the management of many different groups, including government ministries, regions, private entities, and even churches. Most acute-care hospitals are comparable to other European facilities, but some Czech healthcare facilities have lagged behind medical advances; for instance, some psychiatric, long-term care, and nursing facilities are in need of repair.
Referrals are not required to receive secondary or specialty care, and such services are available mainly from private practice specialists, health centers, hospitals, and specialized inpatient facilities.