Sunday, August 4, 2013

Hip hip hooray for Belgium!

Opponents of Obamacare like to talk about how long it takes to get a hip replacement in, say, Canada (even though the Affordable Care Act is nothing like the Canadian health plan). Let's put this in perspective. How about a system that charges so much that some middle-class insured people can't afford a hip replacement at all?

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.


Penelope Stokes said...

A word of praise from someone who actually HAS Obamacare insurance:

I'm not a deadbeat. I'm not on welfare. I'm not unemployed and trying to scam the system. I'm a freelance writer/editor, and for 25years I have been responsible for my own insurance. For several years I had no insurance at all, because I had pre-existing conditions that made any kind of health insurance totally out of range. Think $15,000 + per year. Could you afford that?

Now, thanks to President Obama and his health care reforms, I actually have insurance that will cover me for, say, the knee replacement I had to have in February. Or the annual physical I am finally getting now that I have coverage. Simple things that most traditionally-employed people take for granted.

Don't take them for granted. Thank the President for having the courage to start the process of making sure people get health care.

And let's work toward a system that is affordable and accessible to all.

LaVonne Neff said...

Amen, Penelope Stokes!