Cultural Musings

Health insurance in Poland vs. America – Whose is worse? 

Which would you prefer? 1. Paying for public health care, being fully covered, but waiting in long queues when you need to use it? 2. Choosing your own private health care plan, getting good service, and paying only once, albeit at a higher rate but possibly not being fully covered? Hard to say, really. Let’s take a closer look. 

Health insurance is a private industry in America and that means you can choose your plan and basically pay more or less depending on what you need. A couple I know pays upwards of $600 a month for their plan in the U.S. In Poland, health care is public and costs per month are about 290 zl ($76) for individuals, which is actually a lot if you’re a Pole earning the average wage. And, in fact, you often have to pay out-of-pocket for a private doctor anyway. That means you have to pay twice. Funny how that works. You’ll often hear people calling public health care “free”, which is silly. Of course you pay, just not individually for each visit or procedure. One great thing about public health care, though, is that you won’t die on the street if you can’t pay for treatment and don’t have insurance. Or start a Gofundme page to pay your medical bills like some Americans have to do. That’s great. The question is though, how long will you have to wait for said treatment in Poland and at what standard will it be?

I recently had a friend in the hospital and when I visited him I was kind of appalled by the conditions. I think I’d actually get sicker in a place like that. He had to bring his own spoon to eat the soup. They loaned him one the first day. Thanks a lot.. And the TV costs 2 zł for 1 hour. Although I think the conditions really just depend on the hospital you’re in. I’ve personally had good experiences with doctors and hospitals in Poland, so I can’t complain too much about it. Other than the fact that I have to go private for everything except GP visits, it’s not a big issue when you really need something important done. Both times I was in the hospital I didn’t even have to fill out paperwork. I just went, got some treatment, and went home after a few hours. It was so simple and easy and I’m really grateful for that. I know it’s not that easy in the States. There you never know what will be covered by your insurance so in that case it’s a little scary. You could end up having to pay for some procedure out-of-pocket because your insurance just won’t cover it – it’s private so they can essentially do whatever they want. Here’s a fascinating video about a guy who tried to find out how much his baby’s birth was going to cost. It’s a good representation of our health care system.

Another cool thing about the health care system here is that even when you do pay out-of-pocket the price is relatively low. For example, in America if you’d like your hip replaced, it’s about $30,000 on average (although it depends on which state you’re in, weirdly. Could be much more or much less). In Poland, my husband’s grandmother had hers done for 12,000 zł. Kind of a big difference, hm? It’s the same with dental care as well. Prices are dramatically cheaper here. They should start advertising trips to Poland with medical procedures. I bet more people would visit. All this means that even though we have to pay twice, we still probably pay less but we also get less, like my friend in the hospital. This is a good example of you get what you pay for.

All in all, it’s hard to say which system is better. At least in Poland you’ll be treated eventually and the bills won’t ruin your life. However, in the American system you’ll get better treatment and possibly faster if you have or pay for great insurance, it’s just gonna cost you.

What’s your experience?

Previous Post Next Post


  • Reply acurrent91 11 June 2016 at 14:18

    I have experience just with Polish healthcare and it’s scary. Without knowing well your family doctor (it’s not really family one – more first contact doctor you’re asigned to in area) you’re lost. You have much less problems with getting your turn and getting to specialists if you are rewarding your doctor although the visit is free. My grandma after stroke was waiting 3 years for rehabilitation given from healthcare. Before that she had to go private. In 2 years I will deal with swiss healthcare and that will be interesting. I don’t know much about it, but apparently if you pay insurence and stuff you are not ruined by bills. But if you want such a treat like machine which wakes you up when you stop breathing during the night, well… you have to pay up. Pay up good. Doesn’t matter that without the machine you can not to wake up the next day. Is there anywhere perfect system?

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 11 June 2016 at 16:55

      Good point. There’s no perfect system but I think our systems in Poland and America could use some improvements for sure. Maybe it works better in smaller, rich countries like in Scandinavia? Maybe someone has experience?

  • Reply Marta S. 14 June 2016 at 02:35

    I have family from Poland that lives in the States for some years now and they always come to Poland for the medical procedures. Also, I met some New Yorkers lately and they said that they travel for the dental care to Columbia and flight + dentist cost is still cheaper than doing your teeth in the US. :O

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 14 June 2016 at 06:25

      Hah! That’s incredible. Why Colombia I wonder?

  • Reply Aleksandra 21 June 2016 at 13:53

    From my point of view (i’m from Poland, have quite extensive health problems) it kinda depends on luck here… you can find a great specialist that will help however they can (I even got private number to call if something happens and I can’t deal with it myself) but there are also people that are just… wrong, but their queues are shorter, so people go there… Same thing is with hospitals. In my town it’s the example of the worst kind, and about 60km further it’s one of the best. Though I have to admit that the system itself is completely broken, and I suppose it should be remodelled from the basis, because the levels of bureaucracy are sometimes too damn high for it to be healthy…

  • Reply Dominika 22 July 2016 at 20:13

    You never know what can happen, so it is better to be sure, that after serious accident, your treatment and operations does not make you bankrupt.
    If you are more lucky, and everything is OK, your money goes to help other, less lucky people. Isn’t it good?
    But it depends on society, something what works (quite well) in Poland, may probably never work in the USA.

  • Reply Agnes 8 October 2016 at 10:44

    Hello! I have experience with health care system in Poland, Switzerland and now Belgium. All of them they have some bad side. Polish bad side is public care, Swiss is cost and no existing private and also the doctors work by system so if you sickness is different to all symptoms you will have hard time. Belgium you will pay less than in Switzerland for private medical insurance but you will pay first and some part of will give you back later insurance. But most of medicine you will have to pay. Dentist in Belgium is more cheap than in Switzerland. I learn my English from American women, and I’m dyslectic so all languages are for me so difficult to learn. Now I start learn French since living in French part of Belgium.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 8 October 2016 at 11:40

      There are no private doctors at all in Switzerland? That’s very interesting. I didn’t know. The insurance situation in Belgium sounds similar to the States in that often they pay you back but if you don’t have the money it could be problematic. Which system do you prefer?

  • Reply Agnes 8 October 2016 at 15:54

    Be honest I really don’t know. Swiss is quit strict for example, basic care 300chf per month, for child around 110chf no dentist included. Our daughter has reflux Swiss they want wait for start treatment when she will be over 2 years old because they work like this, we started treatment after 7 months. One visit at doctor around 150chf . But this basic insurance give you back 90% of payment. Belgium cost of visit 25e but specialist 70e but most of medicine you will pay. I prefer the Swiss standard which is butter than Belgium or Polish. I live outside of Poland for 15 years the best was for me in Amman in Jordan than Switzerland last is Belgium where rain and wind is my enemy. I’m from Wroclaw and friend of me she has Australian husband they also have learning school of English as you. But Ralph is not speaking polish.

  • Reply Eleanor 27 October 2019 at 14:07

    We have a friend who broke his ankle 2 years ago when falling 2 stories off a ladder. The surgeon here in the USA botched the repair. He is literally on his way to Warsaw, Poland right now, (his plane will land at in 7 minutes), to have the procedure redone. The cost here was $150,000. The cost to repair the botched job will be $9400. I believe he said that to stay a few extra days in the hospital will be $400. Here is was $1500. His wife will be staying in a very nice hotel for $450 while he is in the hospital. I wish I’d read your post before now. I would have told him to take a spoon. LOL.

    Peter is from Ukraine. His wife is also from Ukraine. She has friends in Europe who told her about a company that provides services all over Europe. I thought he said Medco but I may be wrong. Basically you can go anywhere in Europe where it exists to use their services.

    Peter went to Ukraine to get tooth implants for a fraction of the cost that he was quoted here in the U.S., and that is taking the flight into consideration, too. Our son, while working on cruise ships, went to Cozumel, Mexico to have his teeth worked on. That may be another viable option for medical care as there are many, many US trained doctors practicing in Mexico that provide treatment for ridiculously low costs.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 28 October 2019 at 09:45

      Wow they paid all that money in the States and they still didn’t do a good job? The cost was over 10x more than here! That’s total madness. Lol maybe he won’t need a spoon in the hospital he’s going to 🙂 Speaking of that – maybe I should pack one in my hospital bag! (I’m having a baby in a couple weeks).

      Teeth work seems to be a very popular thing to outsource to another country – and I can see why. The price is much less and the quality is the same or better. My mom always boasts about how great it is here and is always asking me to make appointments for her whenever she comes! It’s so worth it. It basically pays for her whole trip!

  • Reply Random dude 12 June 2021 at 19:33

    Well, when my friend got his fingers broken on a trip, he got to the nearby hospital, got his hand in a splint and he was back to the hotel within a few hours. It’s worth mentioning that he was under 18 and his parents were not around. No papers, no ID needed.
    The same where my other friend was stabbed in his feet by a knife falling from a bed.
    I can’t imagine being asked about my insurance papers in such situation. It’s ridiculus.

    If you have an accident and need to be transported by a helicopter – no bills, no insurance, no paying. You don’t even know the price.

    That’s the biggest advantage – the convieniance. If you are lying at a medical trauma centre, barely alive, the very last thing you want to think about is money.

  • Reply Maj 22 September 2021 at 03:35

    My mom waited 2 months for cancer diagnosis in US! She had ultrosound then waited 3 weeks for scheduling Cat scan and another 2 weeks for biopsy, and and another 2 weeks for results. In Poland she will be just admitted to hospital and diagnosis will take them a week. Before all of this she visited 2 laryngologists since she had problems with sinuses. They said its is after covid, and they cant do anything. But it was beginning of sinus cancer.

  • Reply Jennifer 31 May 2022 at 11:30

    My Mom got sick and turned out to be liver cancer. From time the Dr found it to the time she saw the specialist was about a week. She was told that day she would need a liver transplant. Within weeks she was on the list and she waited six weeks I believe. We live in a state with low wait times for livers. Very lucky. First liver came was no viable 24 hours later the 2nd came and she was in surgery Within a couple of hours. After surgery she had a home health nurse for weeks that she paid nothing. With her surgery, hospital stay, etc. The bill was over 250,00
    She paid less than $500.
    4 Years later she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and needed dialysis.
    She never paid a thing for her dialysis and her cancer treatment was 100% covered. All she ever paid was $10 for her pain medication. She has no office co-pays.
    Now how was all of this possible? My dad worked for the government and they had some of the best insurance and she also had Medicare. So I don’t believe the system is totally broken in the us. But we definitely need some changes.
    Unfortunately my mom passed right literally before covid hit the us.

  • Leave a Reply