Medical health in the Czech Republic – Quality healthcare system in Europe

The Czech Republic has long been known as one of the European countries with an advanced healthcare system. Although it is not the richest or the most developed nation in Europe, the Czech Government has always focused on investing in the medical system, bringing its people healthcare services with the best quality. Our conversation with Doctor Ivan Reich – Director of Hong Ngoc IVF Center, a specialist from the Czech Republic – will bring a clearer view of the advanced medical health system of this European country to the readers.

Doctor Ivan Reich graduated from Medical department – Charles University, Praha – one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Europe. He received intensive training on Obstetrics in Italy, The Netherlands, Denmark and IVF treatment in Israel. He was one of the co-founder and director of ISCARE IVF Center – the largest Israel-funded assisted reproduction center in Praha, the Czech Republic – one of the leading European countries with the most advanced assisted reproductive technologies. Currently he works as Director of Hong Ngoc IVF Center – Hong Ngoc General Hospital.  

Dr. Ivan Reich – Director of Hong Ngoc IVF Center

Dr. Ivan Reich, as a health specialist from the Czech Republic, could you tell us how the Czech Government has invested in the healthcare system?

Dr. Ivan Reich: The medical expense in the Czech Republic is currently estimated to be pretty high. But in comparison with other countries, this number appears to be low. For instance, in 2007, this number only made up for 6.8% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), whereas the average of countries in the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) is 8.9% of GDP.

The cost of healthcare in the Czech Republic still appears low even when compared in absolute terms per capita in purchasing power parity. In 2007, this number went up to 1,626 dollars, while the average of all member countries in the OECD is 2,984 dollars. The highest per capita expenditure belongs to the United States ($ 7,290), followed by Norway, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

The health spending of countries in the OECD is prone to rise by the average of 4% each year. Therefore, medical costs will continue to increase every year. This means we’re spending more and more on healthcare.

Estimations show that in the next 10 years, the medical expense in the Czech Republic may increase by 150 billion Korun (equivalent to 150,000 billion VND). The budget for genetic treatment during this period can be up to 30 billion Korun (30,000 billion VND).

With such investment, how would you assess the current level of healthcare and the quality of health services in the Czech Republic?

Dr. Ivan Reich: Although our investment in medical health is not too much, like the United States (16% of GDP), France (11% of GDP), Switzerland (10.8% of GDP) or Germany (10.4%), the level of healthcare in the Czech Republic is particularly high.

The vast majority of indicators (parameters) from surveys, statistics or research show that the results of the treatment in the Czech Republic are as high as those of the most developed countries in the world. Especially among these, the perinatal mortality rate is low (the number representing the development of obstetrics and neonatology) and the treatment of cardiovascular events has achieved remarkable results.

The number of acute hospital beds in the Czech Republic is decreasing, as the rest of the countries in the OECD, with an average of 3.8 beds per 1,000 people. In recent years, the average hospitalization time has decreased and the number of outpatient medical procedures (interventions) has increased. This is a clear demonstration of the effectiveness of health services.

Due to the improvement in living conditions and exceptional advances in healthcare, the average life expectancy of Czech people is increasing. The expected life expectancy for those born in 2007 in the Czech Republic is 76.7. The infant mortality rate is also very low – 3.3 deaths per 1,000 births.

Dr. Ivan, could you tell us how much Czech people spend on healthcare?

Dr. Ivan Reich: The medical expense is probably not a problem for Czech people because here people pay for healthcare at the lowest cost, sometimes more than 90% of the cost is covered by public insurance companies.

In most countries, patients have to pay for most of the medical costs, however, some medicine is provided free of charge (from health insurance). According to a report of OECD in 2007, Czech people have to pay for nearly 30% of medicine costs. People in Luxembourg only pay for less than 23%. However, in countries outside Europe, people have to pay more than 50% of the cost, in the US it’s even more than 75%. In addition, in the Czech Republic, all citizens with permanent residence are required, by the laws, to have health insurances. The situation is quite different in non-EU countries – in Mexico, only 50% of the population have insurance, in Turkey this figure is 67.2% and in the United States is 86.5%.

Health insurance is one of people’s biggest concerns recently. Can you share with us a little more about the health insurance system in the Czech Republic nowadays?

Dr. Ivan Reich: For the last 25 years, health insurance has been compulsory in the Czech Republic. For both employers and employees, the taxes in the long run are the same, accounting for 13.5% of the base of the rating. Subjects entitled to state insurance, mainly children and pensioners, will be paid in lieu of public health insurance. The current level is 1,018 Korun/month (equivalent to 1,018,000 VND/month).

Currently, Czech health insurance companies pay on average of 31,000 Kč (31,000,000 VND/year) for each patient. However, there is a big difference in the average cost, for example by age: a person under 50 will have an average cost of about VND 10,000,000 to VND 20,000,000, while a person over 65 the cost is about VND 60,000,000. In fact, a wide range of health services are fully covered by insurance, but many people still choose a private health facility which doesn’t have contracts with insurance companies, and pay hundreds of millions. This could mean that a number of people, especially those with great income, want to pay more so they don’t have to wait or they just want to experience a more comfortable environment.

Compared to other healthcare systems in the world, the Czech healthcare system is found with disadvantages but also with various advantages. With these advantages, the Czech healthcare model could be a role model.

This is the last question for Dr. Ivan: why did you choose Vietnam to pursue further your career?

Dr. Ivan Reich: I very much love the people and the country of Vietnam. They are always kind and friendly. Also Vietnam has many great sights and delicious food. But what I really hope to achieve when choosing Vietnam is that I can contribute to the medical health of Vietnam by bringing advances in science and technology in the field of health, new treatments, or new medicine to Vietnamese people. I hope the advanced European medical system at a “Vietnamese” cost could be accessible to the people here. I wish for them to receive the best healthcare services, especially in infertility treatment – an alarming problem in Vietnam nowadays.

Thank you Doctor for creating a clearer image of the Czech medical health system, as well as constantly making efforts to bring modern medical advances to the people of Vietnam.