To obtain free health services you have to be insured by a health care provider that has contracts with the regional branch of the National Health Fund (Narodowy Fundusz Zdrowia, NFZ). You can find out if your insurance company is registered with the NFZ by simply looking at your insurance contract. It should have the NFZ logo on it.
As EU/EEA citizen you are entitled to use Polish health care services with only your European Health Insurance Card. Emergency treatment and treatment in case of sudden illnesses usually is free of charge. In rare cases you might be asked to pay upfront. Try not to do that. If you have to pay, make sure you receive a proper receipt with every treatment exactly listed. If you are going to be living in Poland, you will need to join the national system.
Compulsory coverage for health in Poland
Polish citizens, permanent residents in Poland as well as employees of Polish companies need to be insured with a Polish health insurance. As for other social contributions, health contributions are paid by the employer. In case you receive social security benefits in Poland, you don't need to pay social contributions.
International students in Poland will have to take out health insurance on voluntary basis. Employees of non-Polish companies working in Poland need an extra health insurance for Poland as well. In both cases, your university or your employer respectively can help you.
If you are self-employed, social contributions are not automatically deducted from your bank account. You will have to pay them on your own, every month. If you start a business in Poland you you can benefit from reduced social contribution rates for the first 24 months. The monthly minimum rate will then be 300 PLN instead of 900 PLN.
Patients should not pay for treatment in a state-run health centre, but unfortunately this is not always the case. Before you go to Poland you should ask your insurer which services are covered. Otherwise you might have to pay for treatments yourself.
Travel health insurance in Poland
Non-EU nationals who are not covered by a health scheme through employment in Poland should get travel health insurance before their trip to Poland.
British citizens may get free national health service treatment because of a bilateral agreement between Poland and Great Britain. However, the agreement does not cover all services, so you might still want to get an additional health insurance. Some other countries have similar agreements with Poland; you should ask the appropriate institution in your home country for information.
Private medical facilities in Poland
There are many private institutions offering health care in Poland as well as a wide range of specialized doctors, especially in bigger cities. You can find almost all specialities and clinics that offer special treatments and operations. Note that costs will be significantly higher than in the public sector.