Saturday, February 2, 2008

The meaning of Medicare in Belgium...

Belgium is one of these countries where healthcare is of the highest possible technical quality and at the same time it doesn't seem to cost much to the individuals in need. To arrive at this social advantage though, I have known, ever since I immigrated to this country, that the price to pay is a huge charge to employers (more than 35% standard on any employee's gross salary) and employees (more than 12% of a person's gross, before any tax deductions applied). In other words, almost 50% of a person's gross salary is getting paid in the form of Social Security contributions. For this kind of money of course you expect something in return.

I never knew for a fact how important this was until I recently got 'involved' personally in a serious bowel cancer operation. Got diagnosed in the weeks following November 13th 2007, went thru numerous tests and got hospitalized and operated on November 29th. Released from hospital two weeks later and got nurses attending me daily at home (!) for a minor open wound from a removed catheter until it got cured by December 31st.

Preliminary tests cost me a total of no more than 200 euros of which we recovered the best part from Medicare . Hospitalization (at a single person's room), the operation itself and related tests, scans, radiology, medicines and post operation healthcare cost more than 6500 euros of which 4500 was charged to Medicare and the rest to DKV, a private German Medicare Insurance company that costs me a few hundred euros annually for complementary coverage of the entire family (myself, the spouse and the two boys - my daughter is covered by her own employer's systems). What was presented to me as the only thing I had to pay was a staggering... eight (8) euros (say ten bucks and change). I've been teasing my wife the other day about the size of our contribution to which she responded : Don't you worry, we'll get this back as well!

I was told Canada is even better. I wonder...

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