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Perks at work: private health insurance

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Are you lucky enough to have an employment agreement? ( = umowa o pracę, although the British and American systems are very different from ours, so it’s hard to come up with a good equivalent) Or maybe you have a civil law contract ( = umowa cywilnoprawna – again, with the same caveat = zastrzeżenie as above), but have negotiated good conditions? If so, the employer might have offered you a number of perks. 

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Perks, or fringe benefits ( = świadczenia dodatkowe) are all the extras that you get in addition to your salary, such as company mobile, company car, or a pension scheme ( = plan emerytalny). Now, be careful of the typical Polish mistake. In Polish we tend to speak of “benefity”. And while it IS possible to shorten “fringe benefits” to “benefits,” with the same meaning, a more common use of the word “benefit” is the money given by the government to the disadvantaged ( = ludzie w niekorzystnej sytuacji, pokrzywdzeni). For example, you can have an unemployment benefit ( = zasiłek dla bezrobotnych) or a disability benefit ( = renta dla osób z niepełnosprawnościami). So, to avoid misunderstandings, it is safer to refer to the extra stuff from your employer as “fringe benefits” or simply “perks.”  


Now, the fringe benefit I have chosen for you for today is private health insurance. We all pay ZUS premiums ( = składki na ubezpieczenie), and these are supposed to include ( = mają zawierać) free healthcare. But if you’ve ever tried to actually ( = rzeczywiście; nie, nie aktualnie…) use that, you’ll have found out that it’s not so easy. Long waiting times to the GP ( = General Practitioner, lekarz pierwszego kontaktu), the phone to your local clinic ( = przychodnia) being constantly busy, and when you have a referral for specialist treatment ( = skierowanie do specjalisty), it turns out that all the appointment slots ( = “numerki”) for this AND next year are already taken, and in March 2021 it might be possible to get an appointment ( = wizyta) for 2022. Yup, that is the sad reality of the public healthcare system in Poland.


So, no wonder ( = nic dziwnego) that employers are luring ( = wabią) good workers with attractive private health insurance packages. In fact, this is one of the few things that I do miss about being an entrepreneur ( = przedsiębiorca). Since private health care packages are quite expensive for people who run their own businesses ( = prowadzą własne firmy), I tend to simply pay out of pocket ( = płacić samodzielnie) for appointments with doctors in private clinics, but things get harder when something more serious is happening.


An example of that was a few weeks ago, when I felt really weak, and I felt as if I was about to faint ( = czułam się, jakbym miała zaraz stracić przytomność). I tried calling an ambulance ( = zadzwonić po karetkę), and of course I was told to get to hospital by myself. Luckily, I did manage to do that. In the hospital, I spent an hour or two bouncing off ( = odbijać się) between nurses, doctors, and janitors ( = woźni), trying to get someone to examine ( = zbadać) me. I felt like an enemy of the state ( = wróg publiczny), and I got the impression that everyone wanted me to die before they had to look at me. In the end, I did get some attention. It turned out that my magnesium and potassium levels were dramatically low, and a simple IV ( = kroplówka) fixed the problem. I was told to take some supplements, but I think I might go for bananas and chocolate instead, as more natural sources of the minerals… ;). So luckily, it all ended well.


As we all know, the public healthcare system is heavily understaffed ( = cierpiący na niedobór personelu) and underfunded ( = niedofinansowany). And I am in no way blaming the doctors or nurses or the other staff, who are doing everything they can – and sometimes even more – to help people. Still, if you do get an offer of private heath insurance as a perk – don’t hesitate to grab it!

Stay healthy!

Kasia Sielicka, your favorite English teacher 😉



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