Monday, December 17, 2007

The cost of Healthcare in Belgium

I was planning to report on the entire cost of my healthcare adventures of the last 30 days because it seems kinda interesting and almost incomprehensible to the outside world. It's still early in the process to grasp the entire cost but in fact don't hold your breath. The cost will eventually prove relatively insignificant compared to the length and breadth of diagnostic tests and treatment I have undergone.

In the meantime, as an illustration, I have three simple examples to describe.

1. Pretreatment diagnostic tests. I have been thru the full Monty with multiple doctors in two hospitals: Ultrasounds, CT scan, Pet Scan, X-Rays, Colonscopy (twice, with biopsy), Cardiology tests, ECGs, countless blood tests, urine test, etc... I believe it all came down to an own personal contribution of no more than 50 euros.

2. Consultation cost with the Professor surgeon who operated my colon cancer (Prof Dr. Piet Pattyn at the UZ Gent). I visited him twice on a consultation basis at 20.32 euro each!... of this amount I'll probably recover 90% plus from the State HC system. Can you figure that? The guy is a celebrity, he saves lives for a living, a notorious medical hero, available 14 hours a day and all he asks is the regular social tariff that the system defines... no more than what my home doctor charges!

3. Post operational treatment. Since I left hospital last week, I have a nurse visiting daily (including weekends) to take care of some open wounds that need healing (catheters etc). It takes her no more than a few seconds to complete the task but nevertheless, the system will pay her the time to travel to my place and do the job. Total cost to me personally? Nada!

In this God-Forgotten country called Belgium, where politicians are not capable to agree on a central government, home to the EU and the NATO, Healthcare is one of the hidden marvels of the system. Of course it costs a lot to the employed and employers thru salary contributions and taxes. I haven't heard anyone screaming though when they end up needing to use the system.

Too good to be true? No wonder Belgium is attraction pole Number 1 for aspirant immigrants of all sizes and colors...

PS. By the way, there is no treatment known to mankind that is not available to almost all large hospitals in the country. Down the hall on my floor we had people recovering from organ transplants on one side and two French travesties who had just undergone a sex-change operation, for kicks! Last, our hospitals are packed with the Dutch. Why? Because, as one woman I met at the hospital put it, if she had to wait for the waiting list in Holland to get her turn, she'd be eventually dead. Whereas in Belgium she can enjoy outstanding treatment in the shortest possible waiting times. Did you hear that Harry Potter?

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