So, the big question, is universal healthcare better than the system (very broken) in the United States? I would say hands down yes with my experience in Luxembourg. I had my first visit to the doctor yesterday. I am running out of my thyroid medication and need to get a new prescription. You are not allowed to ship prescription medicine from the United States.
Thankfully I met a wonderful woman a couple of weeks ago during the American Women’s Club of Luxembourg’s discussion on medicine and how the system works here. Dr. Nana Ikoko and I hit it off right off the bat and of course I wanted her to be my GP (general practitioner). She is an amazing woman. She grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa, and moved to Belgium for university. After university she moved to London, where she practiced medicine for five years. Oh boy the stories she told me about her experiences in London. She has been in Luxembourg for a year now. It has been hard for her to establish a practice here since most Luxembourg people go to the same doctor from birth to death. She is fluent in English and French but not German and Luxembourgish so that has limited her.
I went for my first visit yesterday. Upon arrival there were no forms to be filled out, you simply show your Securite Sociale card. I went directly into her office where we discussed what medicine I was on (a natural form of thyroid medicine). I had done some research and since alternative medicine/naturopathy is not available here I knew we would have to look further than Luxembourg. She was not familiar with my medicine. I had a print-out of pharmacists in the UK and she got on the phone and called them up right then and there. Within 10 minutes she had set up an account with the pharmacy and had ordered my prescription. She also wrote up a long list of blood tests I have been wanting to get for a while to see how my thyroid and other mineral absorptions are doing. Although I haven’t been to a primary doctor in the United States in many years, I know I never had an experience as great as this.
Upon check out, I paid just €55 (about $60) for my half-hour visit. Most of this will be reimbursed by the CNS. To give blood is a little more tricky since there are only a few labs in Luxembourg and most of them are only open from 7-9 am. Thankfully they had a lady that comes to this clinic on Thursday mornings so I was able to go this morning. Upon arrival this morning I was immediately wisked in and gave blood in less than 10 minutes. I gave six vials and was dreading what the bill would be for so many tests. I am guessing in the US it would be almost four figures since one thyroid test alone has cost me $300 in the past and I was getting 26 different tests today.
I asked the technician how I should pay. She said, “CNS pays for it. You pay nothing.” As I left the office, I was ecstatic. How could this be?
So, both times that I have had experiences with the medical establishment here it has been great. My son’s antibiotics cost less than €3 (post here) in the fall and now this.
I did find out some interesting information during the AWCL talk that American’s would find alarming, but overall I will take this system over the American system every day.
Interesting ways they do things here:
There are two hospitals in the city of Luxembourg. There are two more in the country (north and south). At any given time only one of the hospital’s emergency rooms is open. You have to find out which one before you go. They do have an after-care center (urgent care center) that you can go to after hours (8 pm) but you also have to know which one is open on which day. During regular hours you see your GP.
911 in the US or 112 here: If you call, very few will speak English so speak slow and simple. This is also the number you call to see which hospital is on-call and which pharmacy is open. You can also ask about a directory of doctors and specialists. It is not just for emergencies. So, if you do have an emergency they will ask a couple of questions. If it doesn’t involve blood and not very urgent they will send out an ambulance as transport only. This will be followed by a doctor who has all the medicine and materials in his/her bag. If it is a true emergency they will call for another ambulance that has more advanced materials for transport to the hospital. In the rural regions of Luxembourg they will send a helicopter instead of an ambulance since it is hard to get to places with the windy roads and can take too long. The doctor follows the ambulance to the hospital. The ambulances are nowhere nearly as advanced as the US and the EMTs are volunteers and are not trained in life saving.
If you show up yourself at the emergency room of the hospital that is not on-call they cannot take you in. It is closed – doors shut and lights off. You will need to go to the other hospital. There was a case recently where someone died outside the hospital in this circumstance. The infrastructure of this fast-growing city has not been updated and it is obvious if you go to the emergency room I have heard. People can wait hours to get in. Luxembourg is slow and Old World with regards to this. Although I have to say there are probably areas in the US that do not have adequate facilities either.
If you want to know more, here are nice articles by expats.