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Belgium rates poorly in new study on access to healthcare
A study by the European Social Observatory shows that Belgium is performing badly when it comes to providing access to healthcare, with the poorest people in the country suffering the most.
The study, entitled: "Inequality of access to healthcare in Belgium", shows that, in fact, Belgium is almost bottom of the class in Europe when it comes to providing accessibility to healthcare for the poorest people. Rita Baeten, co-author of the study and an analyst at the European Social Observatory said: “In Europe, only Greece and Latvia have a worse situation than Belgium for people in the low-income group having to give up healthcare for financial reasons.”
In Belgium, many people have difficulty paying their medical bills or simply miss out on care, such as Anne Fournier who, as a result of suffering from Menières Syndrome, should receive psychiatric care at a day centre which would cost her €120 a month. However, her situation is such that she has other priorities. “When you have a salary, it's fine but when you just have disability benefits, the priority is food,” she said. “€120 is three weeks of food for me.”
Everything would be better if Fournier had to pay less herself and more of her care was covered by the state. Because, in this situation too, Belgium is poorly rated. While in the EU as a whole, 93% of hospital care costs are covered, only 77% is covered in Belgium. “Almost a quarter of hospital care costs are paid either by the patients themselves or by private and supplementary insurance,” said Baeten. This is too large a bill to pay for the poorest, who often do not have private insurance.
One solution is to spread out health payments over time but even there, the dire situation many people live in can be seen. “We see that the payment plans that are requested are getting smaller and smaller all the time,” said Gregory Bresolin, head of the billing department at the Citadel Regional Hospital Centre in Liège. “Before we had payment plans often ranging from €50 to €70. Now it is not uncommon to have requests for payment plans in the range of €25 and sometimes even a little less.”
The Observatory's hypothesis is that the poor in Belgium are becoming poorer. “The costs of housing and public services such as electricity, heating, for example, have increased and so there is even less money left for the poorest to pay for health care,” says Rita Baeten.