In my post Healthcare: International Perspectives, I looked at U.S. healthcare as compared to some other industrialized nations. Last week, since the overseas trip offered by the IUSB Office of International Programs next summer is to Berlin and Prague, I wrote about Germany’s healthcare system. This week, it’s on to the Czech Republic!
The EPMA Journal, a peer-reviewed scientific journal focusing on healthcare, published an article by Judita Kinkorová and Ondřej Topolčan in 2012 summarizing the history, details, and status of healthcare in the Czech Republic. The World Health Organization also put together a tremendously helpful report in 2005 (which is much easier to read than the journal article, thankfully!).
Like Germany, and now the U.S., the Czech Republic has a compulsory health insurance system — all citizens are required to participate. Thus, the Czech Republic has a universal healthcare system. Also like Germany and the U.S., the Czech system is a multi-payer system. There are nine primary insurance companies; however, unlike the U.S., they are not-for-profit companies. However, most of the insurance is provided through a public insurance company, General Insurance Company of the Czech Republic.
One interesting thing about the insurance companies of the Czech Republic is that the boards of the private insurers is required by law to include equal representation from “the State (members appointed by the Ministry of Health), the insured (elected by the parliament), and the employers (delegated by the Chamber of Trade and Industry)” (WHO Report p. 18). This helps to ensure that the interests of each of the groups is adequately represented in decisions made by the insurance companies.
Most types of care are covered under the plans, save for some cosmetic and acupuncture services. Previously, most services under the Czech system are provided without charge at the point of service. But in 2008, because the system was struggling financially, some “user fees” and co-payments were instituted for things like doctor visits, hospital stays and prescription drugs. It appears funding is the primary issue with the program, but information about the healthcare and insurance systems in the Czech Republic is very difficult to find. In fact, in its 2005 report, the World Health Organization stated the system is “not being evaluated or publicized sufficiently” (83) and that “initiative should be started to make the Czech health care system and its processes more transparent for Czech citizens as well as for other Europeans” (84).