Sunday, August 4, 2013
Hip hip hooray for Belgium!
Unless they fly to a Western European country with "socialized" medicine and pay out of pocket. Check out this story about Michael Shopenn, a man whose artificial hip was manufactured in Warsaw, Indiana, "a global center of joint manufacturing." Shopenn, who had health insurance, could not get coverage for a hip operation because his insurer deemed it a pre-existing condition (note: that should no longer be a problem now that we have the ACA). So he ended up flying to Belgium.
A Belgian citizen with no supplementary insurance would have paid only 25-50% of what this American paid for "not only a hip joint, made by Warsaw-based Zimmer Holdings, but also all doctors’ fees, operating room charges, crutches, medicine, a hospital room for five days, [and] a week in rehab." And the Belgian would not have had to add airfare to the rest of the cost.
But for Schopenn, the Belgian tab was a good deal--far, far less than he would have paid in the U.S., and no more than his co-pay would have been if his insurer had been willing to cover the surgery.
If you're curious about Belgian healthcare, you can read about it here.
And yes, Belgian taxes are high. But if you total up American taxes (income, Social Security, Medicare, property, sales) and add them to the cost of American health insurance (what you pay and what your employer pays), you may notice that we Americans are spending a lot of money for our services, too, whether we can afford to use them or not. Maybe even more than the Belgians.
I put "socialized" in scare quotes because that's the word Obamacare detractors love to use, even though it's wildly inaccurate. Belgian healthcare is actually based on mutually owned insurance companies that compete for state funding based on membership. A high percentage of the hospitals are private.