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Medical officials agree a freeze on additional fees during hospitalisations

Illustration picture shows a nurse at the bed of a patient at the Universitair Ziekenhuis UZ Gent hospital, in Gent, Wednesday 31 March 2021. (BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK)
06:22 13/05/2022

The national joint committee of doctors and hospitals unanimously decided on Thursday to freeze the maximum rates of additional fees in hospitals for at least one year, RTBF reports.

The freeze was announced by minister of health Frank Vandenbroucke who requested the measure. "This is an important first step,” he said. “We want to bring about a change of mentality in hospitals with the aim of gradually and actually reducing fee supplements in a next phase to protect the patient from high bills." The agreement will now be translated into a royal decree.

"We are putting a stop to the increase in additional fees by freezing the maximum percentages at the hospital level,” Vandenbroucke continued. “This percentage freeze shall apply immediately. At the same time, a pause is introduced for the retrocession of doctors' fees in order to protect them too. This ‘pause’ is applied in a way that does not hinder innovation, in consultation with hospitals and doctors, but it prevents doctors from having to pay for the freezing of supplements."

According to Vandenbroucke, patients are not sufficiently protected against high hospital bills.

“Additional fees and non-health insurance costs should not be chargeable to the patient,” he added. “Currently, these situations exist, even without the patient being informed beforehand, and they can result in unpleasant surprises. There are legal rates, but under certain conditions, doctors may charge additional fees and hospitals charge room supplements. In a single room in the hospital, the patient pays up to seven times more than in a double room for the same treatment by the same doctor.”

“Fee supplements are increasing year by year and we need to reverse this trend because it makes no sense," Vandenbroucke said.

The total amount of additional fees charged for hospitalisations is €610 million out of a total amount of €3.28 billion of doctors' fees. These additional fees increase faster than reimbursement rates offered by health insurance companies.

The average patient bill per stay (all types of room considered) for a regular hospitalisation amounts to €642, including €349 in additional fees. Taking into consideration only single rooms in a conventional hospitalisation, the bill amounts to €2,119, including €1,438 in additional fees, said the minister.

Written by Nick Amies