This blog has been a little quiet, as I have been recovering from a bad cold. I had one week of simple cold and the second week turned into a little bit more. I had a cough that just would not end, and I finally accepted the fact that I had to see a doctor.

Seeing a doctor here seems pretty simple. On Thursday afternoon I had decided to call my doctor, but then realized that I did not need to. Each morning, from 8-9.30, there is a drop in time for patients. That means that during that hour and a half the doctor will see each patient for 10 minutes or less, usually it is someone in need of a prescription. When you walk in to the office, you do not give your name, you just go to the waiting room and find out who was the most recent arrival. That is how you know how many people are in front of you and how long you have to wait. The doctor comes to the waiting room, asks who is next, and then you are on your way. On this Friday morning, I had to wait less than 10 minutes.

This is a practice of two doctors and they have a backup doctor who helps out during holidays and today, I had the back up and she was really nice and thorough. She determined I had bronchitis and needed antibiotics, and I felt relieved that I was going to get some help. The other good thing about this doctor is that she had been to Boston and loved it. I knew she had really good taste.

There is another feature that I like a lot about the medical services. Between 1-2 each day, you can call the office and actually talk to a doctor. That hour is set aside for patients to talk to a doctor and that seems like such a smart idea.

Medical care in The Netherlands is NOT socialized. It is a law that everyone who lives in this country, whether they are a citizen or not, must have medical insurance. You can choose the insurance company that you want and you pay for it. Your work does not give you insurance.  You have options of what kind of care you want to pay for, you can get the basic which is the lowest cost or you can pay more for more care. You pay a monthly premium depending on what plan you have BUT everyone must pay for the first €350 (475 dollars) of any medical costs (this includes medications). Once you have used up the €350 worth of care, then the insurance pays for the rest. But this is part of the law, everyone must pay this €350 and some people are not happy with this, as they do not want to pay this. Last year, the figure was €210 (285 dollars) and the increase was not greeted positively. Because the law treats everyone the same, no matter what your income is, this increase has upset some seniors who say that it is hard for them to come up with the initial €350.

No one can be turned down for insurance because of any previous conditions. It is the national law of the land that no insurance company can even ask about previous conditions and certainly not turn someone away.

Basic care covers:  childbirth, physical therapy for authorized problems, medications (after the €350 is paid), hearing aids, a home practitioner and being admitted to the hospital.

I have heard online from some American expats who do not love the quality of care, but I have not had any complaints. The Dutch are known for their efficiency, and they seem to be this way for medical issues. As an example, when you visit a doctor there is no nurse to escort you to the exam room. There is no nurse to take your temperature or blood pressure, this is all done by the doctor. And the biggest shocker of all is that this country does not have hospital gowns in the doctor’s office or the hospitals. That is one thing that I definitely miss compared to the American system, you have the right to a “johnny”. Here, the Dutch look at you like you are out of your mind, why would we provide a nightgown for you? And who would pay for that? So they have streamlined many services to cut spending and all I know that it is nice to be living in a country that has coverage for all. It certainly is not perfect and it does not make everyone happy, but at least they have some kind of coverage.

By the way, I think I am getting better. It has been the absolute worst case of bronchitis in the entire history of the world. I know that I will get some kind of award for the amount of coughing that I have done in the last week, records have been broken and I am so ready to move on from illness. I am sick of cough syrup, lozenges, tissues, sneezing, watery eyes, and coughing. Put a fork in me, I am done. Or as they say in Dutch: ik ben er klaar mee (I am done with it).

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  • Suzanne Sherwood  On October 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    My uncle loved Holland (Utrecht) and lived there most of his life. He also died there because his prostate cancer was not diagnosed until he visited his brother in San Francisco. His Dutch physician had told him he didn’t have a problem. The system you describe sounds good–any doctor can make a mistake–but occasionally I wonder what went wrong.

  • Aledys Ver  On October 11, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Glad to hear you are finally on the mend and that you now feel confident enough to spice up your post with some Dutch!
    As to the healthcare system here, as with everything else, I guess there are good things and bad things about it. What I definitely thing is something positive is that everyone has the same kind of attention.

  • Jean Langley  On October 12, 2013 at 2:46 am

    My friend in London has been sick, too. Glad you’re doing better. Interesting perspective on the health care. Sounds like it has some of the features Obamacare is going to provide (mandatory purchase, private insurers, pre-existing conditions not considered). In UK I guess there is a faction trying to get rid of the health care the government has provided.No one seems to be perfectly happy anywhere, but it’s important that health care is available andnot totally out of reach for people.

  • Shers Gallagher  On October 12, 2013 at 5:11 am

    Dear Jane, I think you’re spoiled – LOL. I couldn’t get insured again in the States if I wanted to. I’ve been away for so long that I simply couldn’t afford it. On the other hand, our Dutch insurance is subsidised for those who can’t afford the standard sum. And paying a 350 EUR deductible is nothing compared to what it is in the States these days. I know, I just got back from visiting family and was appalled at how horribly high American deductibles are these days.
    BTW, not all Dutch doctors have morning drop-ins as you describe them. Mine certainly doesn’t. Maybe it’s different for you living in South Holland, as I live further south in farm and sea country. We’re more relaxed here. 🙂
    Oh, and ‘beterschap, hoor!

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