Belgium doctors to imposes additional fees without alerting their patients

The proportion of hospital doctors whose costs are fully paid by the health insurers of Belgium (mutualités/mutualiteit) has reduced from 75 percent to 68 percent. Most of them now impose additional fees without alerting their patients.

Different Flemish outlets revealed that doctors working in the hospitals of Belgium are less often offering their service through health insurers on Wednesday.

The figures from the National Institute for Health & Disability Insurance (INAMI) showed that the number of thoroughly “conventionné” hospital doctors is reducing.

In the 1960s, the convention system was established so that the hospitals’ patients would pay a consistent annual rate. It aimed to prevent exorbitant fees in hospital bills.

Along with this, doctors have the option to partially or entirely disengage from this system, in which case they are free to bill premiums in addition to the official consultation or procedure fees, the amount of which varies by location. For instance, a radiologist who does not participate in the health insurance system may charge up to €50 extra for a detailed scan.

While it would seem that practitioners are taking advantage of patients‘ naivety to make a quick buck, Thomas Gevaert of the doctor’s union Cartel claimed that the truth was far more complex. He said that some of my coworkers who are not covered by health insurance make less money than I do.

According to him, the issue is caused by the undervaluation of the normal rates for some professions, which is then made worse by the debt these professionals have to the hospitals where they work. Then, according to Gevaert, “others wish to innovate with therapies that the government does not currently support.”

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