Written by David Creighon
Among the many things you need to do when moving abroad, setting up insurance cover for your relocation is one of the most important arrangements you´ll need to make. Here is an overview of some of the issues surrounding health insurance, car insurance and medical insurance.
Some people choose not to arrange cover and ‘hope for the best´. This may be feasible if you are very healthy, but if you need emergency treatment such an approach would be unwise, as you have to pay on the spot. It should also be borne in mind that there is a requirement for you to have some form of health insurance when you come to the Czech Republic.
When arranging cover there are various options. You should take into account whether are you an employee or self-employed, your residence status and, crucially, whether you are an EU National, because the Czech Republic is now an EU member and complies with EU laws on healthcare. Wherever you come from you should at least arrange cover through the public healthcare system, depending on your status. Under Czech law you must be covered by it if you have permanent residence or are working for an employer that has a registered business address in the Czech Republic. People working here on a self-employed basis, whether EU citizens or not, have obligations too. You should therefore make sure you know whether you are obliged to be part of a Czech public health insurance scheme. Private insurance is of course an option too, and many ex-pats are members of private schemes.
The Public Healthcare System
Healthcare in the Czech Republic is paid for on the basis of contributions from your salary (if you work for a Czech employer), and they are paid to a public health insurance company. If you are self-employed you can choose which health insurance company you want to deal with. Many employers and individuals have an arrangement with Všeobecná zdravotní pojišt´ovna České republiky (General Health Insurance Company of the Czech Republic) or VZP (www.vzp.cz), as it´s normally referred to. It´s the largest health insurance company in the country, and is used to dealing with foreigners. It has offices throughout the Czech Republic.
Once you are registered in the system, either as an employee or on a self-employed basis, you will be issued with a card by your insurance company. You should keep it with you at all times and produce it every time go to hospital or see your doctor. Remember that public GPs have a contract with one of the health insurance companies, and when you sign up for a local doctor you may find that s/he does not have a contract with the same company. You should therefore check which insurance firm the doctor has an agreement with. If you have to visit a doctor who has a contract with a different healthcare company, then your provider would reimburse the doctor for any costs involved. However, this is the case only where ‘essential´ and ‘urgent´ treatment is required. You should also be aware that having public healthcare provision does not cover you if you visit private clinics or hospitals.
The Public Healthcare System – Non-EU Nationals
If you have permanent or long-term residence and are working for a Czech employer then you will pay contributions from your salary. If you are working on a freelance basis and have permanent residence then you will pay your contributions on an annual basis. If you are self-employed and have a long-term residence permit you should arrange contractual insurance individually with a public health insurance company. Premiums are paid upfront and the contract will apply for a certain period. You will need to undergo a medical and fill out a simple medical questionnaire. The policy can be extended if you are renewing your residence permit.
Healthcare for EU Citizens
The situation for EU citizens changed when the Czech Republic became a member of the European Union on 1 May 2004. Before this date, public healthcare arrangements for EU and non-EU citizens were the same.
Now the situation is different for EU nationals living in the Czech Republic, because even if you have temporary residence (přechodný pobyt), which lasts 5 years, for healthcare purposes you enjoy similar rights to Czechs, because of the principle of common healthcare provision across the European Union. This means that if you are working for an employer then the arrangements described above still apply. If you are working on a freelance basis, e.g. as a translator, then you still have to make monthly payments. Before, you had to take out contractual insurance (if you had long-term residence) but now you have to make an arrangement with a health insurance company yourself. It´s also possible to set up insurance with a non-domestic healthcare company if you are an EU citizen, but this arrangement must comply with EU law on public healthcare, so you should obviously check everything before making any arrangements.
Private Healthcare Schemes
Besides public healthcare cover, you may choose to be part of a private healthcare scheme. If you are working independently, you can arrange for cover with a company from home. If you are with a large multinational firm the situation is often very straightforward: it may have set up private care for you. Many ex-pats have arrangements with firms such as BUPA, through their employer, and they go to private clinics such as the Canadian Medical Centre, which accept BUPA or other private policies. Depending on your situation, you may be obliged to make contributions to the Czech public healthcare system also (see above). This has advantages if you have to go into a public hospital, for example, if you need emergency treatment. If you tell the hospital you have private care it may mean paperwork, which of course may not be very convenient if you are in severe pain. But showing that you are covered by the Czech public healthcare system would enable treatment straight away. Bear in mind that if even you arrange to pay for treatment privately and the care provided by companies such as BUPA may cover every eventuality, you may have to pay upfront and be reimbursed later.
HOUSE CONTENTS INSURANCE
Many foreigners in the Czech Republic are living in rented accommodation, whether apartments or houses, and so the landlord has responsibility for the security of the building as a whole, but of course you are responsible for your belongings. House contents insurance is not obligatory, but of course it always makes sense to have appropriate cover.
Again, as with health insurance, if you are working for an international organization or company it may take care of all the arrangements for you. But if not, like with health insurance, you can arrange to have house contents insurance set up in your home country, and there are special companies that cater for ex-pats, such as John Wason Insurance brokers (www.johnwason.co.uk) in the UK.
Choosing a Firm
It is also perfectly possible to arrange insurance with Czech firms or international companies based here, and you can do this either personally or through a reputable intermediary, such as Insia (www.insia.cz), which deals with English-speaking clients. Remember that you will probably need to have at least long-term residence to take out cover. Some examples of foreign firms operating here and offering house contents insurance include Generali (www.generali.cz) and Uniqa (www.uniqa.cz). You may wish to use a foreign-based firm, although most Czech insurance firms are likely to have English speakers, and even if the forms are in Czech somebody will be able to help you. Czech firms providing house contents insurance include ČSOB Pojišt´ovna. Policies can be arranged quite easily through this firm, although the paperwork is all in Czech. As with insurance everywhere else, cover can be arranged up to various levels, with additional provision for separate items, such as computers. Premiums are paid annually.
You may have a company car, and the firm will take care of all the insurance arrangements. Alternatively you may have your own car here, which can be a tricky business, given the complexities of dealing with the paperwork.
If you wish to obtain long-term insurance you should have your car registered, and bear in mind that under Czech law the owner of a vehicle here must have motor third party liability insurance (which is the same in the UK), known as povinné ručení in Czech. Full cover is not essential, but it´s obviously a good idea because there have been instances of people who have been hit by drivers who have no insurance whatsoever.
You should also note that (as in the UK) premiums can be affected by the amount of excess the insured is willing to pay if a claim is submitted, and there are also incentives for no claims made during the previous year.
Choosing a firm
Insurance can be arranged in the Czech Republic. Insia (see above) deals with car insurance, as does UNIQA.