Saturday 24 March 2012

Is Health Insurance Worth It ?

Living in a foreign country for a period of time always gives you a different perspective on life, making you appreciate things that you probably took for granted before leaving home, but also allowing you to see how a different system has added bonuses. The health system is a great example of this. 

In the UK, the NHS is basically a really sound system, providing free healthcare for anyone who needs it. If you're carted off to hospital, you know you're not going to end up with a horrendous bill, and, when you need medication, although you may have to pay a fee for your prescription, it's a fixed rate that (in theory) everyone can afford.

In France, you have to pay about £20 every time you go to see your doctor, even if it's just for a prescription. Hospital visits and medical examinations can quickly cost an absolute fortune. Basically everyone has a "mutuelle" or health insurance plan, which picks up a large percentage of your health bills. Although you still end up having to pay a large chunk for glasses or orthodontics, you get back pretty much everything you pay up front for your doctor's visits and medication. It does annoy me to see people going to the doctor's for things like cough syrup and cold medication just so that they can claim back the cost, whereas in the UK you'd buy it over the counter (not to mention at a cheaper price because generic medication is much more widespread).

As is often the case, you get what you pay for so, although you have to pay out every month for health insurance in France, there's no such thing as hospital waiting lists. Whenever you need to see a specialist or have a hospital appointment, you'll have to wait a couple of weeks at the most.

When I was pregnant for the first time, I was surprised to be asked if I wanted to go to the hospital as a private or public patient. Confused, I asked what the difference was and was told that private patients paid for everything and claimed it back on health insurance, whereas public patients didn't need to pay, it was all sorted out directly with the insurance company so you had nothing to pay upfront. Whereas private patients could be sure they'd have their consultant at the birth, public patients may have to make do with a midwife. This two-tiered patient system seemed wrong, not to mention very strange, to me.

Talking to friends in the US was another illumination. Health care is so important that people are prepared to take lower-paid jobs without great prospects because of the health insurance they provide. Losing your job doesn't just mean that you lose your income, it also means that if you fall sick or have an accident, you may end up with crippling bills that you have no way of paying, so finding health insurance, preferably by getting a new job, becomes majorly important. Other people decide to take a chance and save money by going without health insurance, crossing their fingers that they won't need it.

If you live in the UK, the chances are it's something you've never even thought  about. gives you an interesting insight into deciding whether or not to invest in health insurance, as well as offering a price comparison tool to help you find the cheapest temporary health insurance, state by state, which could be very handy if you're planning on spending time in the States. also has interesting on a variety of health and lifestyle topics, including insurance.

Something to remember if you're travelling within Europe is to ask for your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), which replaced the E111 form. It's totally free and if you have to receive medical attention in a country that charges for health care, you will be reimbursed either immediately, or after you go home to your own country. It's available via your local health authority.

*** This is a sponsored but nevertheless 100% honest post ! ***

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1 comment:

  1. goodness knows what my daughter and grandson would do without the NHS


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