Cost of Healthcare elsewhere, seen firsthand


Another one of these cost of healthcare articles, ugh. Yes, another one and I hope more of these keep coming as things can be better here. This one I felt compelled to write as it is from a very personal point of view.

After 3 years, we finally went back to the Netherlands to visit my parents. My parents are getting older and so are our kids. 3 years in the life of a child is like a lifetime (for both kids and grandparents). Yes we see each other on Skype every Sunday but that does come not close to being able to give your grandchildren a real hug.

What was supposed to be a beautiful reunion turned into something else. It was not the hugs and kisses we expected. After ringing the doorbell of my childhood home my mom opened the door. Of course an overwhelming wave of happiness to be seen in her eyes. Absent however was my father. If I could check on him upstairs as he was sick in bed and mom wasn’t sure what was going on. That’s not good.

ambulanceThe nurse that tends to my father twice daily had been there earlier and would return in a little bit to check up on him again. Things did not look good. I found my father practically choking in his sleep. It seemed like another case of pneumonia, one in a string of previous cases occurrences. This one looked worse and the nurse agreed.

What was supposed to be a happy reunion turned into a ride in the ambulance to get my father in the ER ASAP. Off to the hospital and within 2 hours of arriving in the Netherlands I was making calls about “No resuscitation” and yes/no to ICU care in case of complications. Not the conversation I was expecting on this joyous trip.

My father spent 4 days in the hospital and was back at home most of the rest of our stay to enjoy our company and his grandson’s tall tales of Karate.

This is the back story to why I felt compelled to write this. I couldn’t help but think after all of this was over what this may have cost. Ambulance, emergency room and a 4 day stay in the hospital with all the care and medical equipment it entailed. You tend to not think about that while it is happening but as things wind down you can’t help but wonder about the bill that arrives at the tail end of this. Having lived in the States for 18 years now you can’t help but think about this and often it starts earlier than at the tail end.

This is exactly why I built the portfolio I have today, to be able to financially survive something like this.

Had something like this happened to myself or god forbid someone else in my family, costs could have easily been over $15,000 and with my current deductible (not counting anything that might not be covered by insurance) it would have cost me $7,500 out of pocket right of the bat.

Medical costs in the Netherlands aren’t as high as in the States. As a matter of fact no country comes close to the medical costs in the US but nonetheless the Netherlands ranks 4th (in cost per capita) so all in all pretty high as well.

Even though costs are high for each country there’s the huge difference between the two; for my parents there IS NO BILL.

During these types of events (and they’ve seen a few) my parents don’t worry about money nor do they worry about it in the aftermath. It probably wouldn’t even cross their minds as they have never had to worry about the cost of healthcare. All my father had to do is focus on getting well. He didn’t have to worry about what might out of pocket and what was not. He didn’t have to worry about what medication he was given that might not be covered by insurance. Getting rest, relaxing and trying to get better is all he had to worry about.

Yes the Dutch pay more in taxes, yes gas in the Netherlands costs about $12 a gallon and one might argue that sucks, but no one and I mean NO ONE (rich or poor, employed or unemployed, young or retired) has that sword of Damocles of over their heads; you know the one of bankruptcy after a single bad disease.

For the some readers out there who cry socialism, my answer is NO, not socialism but socialized care. The Netherlands and many other nations that have universal healthcare (and plenty of other social programs offered by government) are not socialists. The Dutch don’t wait in line at the grocery store for bread and they aren’t facing death panels as some may make you believe. It’s not socialism but actually REALLY good business. Look back at that chart up above. The Netherlands spends about $3,500 less per capita than we do here. The care there is on par with what you can expect here and yet costs are lower.

Remember how I mentioned “The nurse that tends to…”? That’s right both my mother and father get twice daily visits from a nurse to take care of bandaging, clothing and washing and whatever other help they need. They also get a cleaner that comes by every other week (used to be weekly before cutbacks this year). You may say “What a waste of money”. Well, it’s not if you contrast it to the cost of a full-time nursing home which my parents would need to be in without these nurses.

If a nurse makes 15 Euro ($17) per hour and spends 2 times half an hour with my parent it will cost just about that 15 Euro per person taken care of per day. The nurse showed me her schedule. She sees 14 patients like my parents every day. Contrast that against the daily cost of a nursing home. Nursing home care ranges from $168 to upwards of $300 a day depending on what state you live it. It simply makes financial sense.

And for all you baby boomers out there starting to think about the prospect of needing care; wouldn’t it be nice to be in your own home and in your own environment for as long as humanly possible. Without the care my parents get on a daily basis they probably would have been in nursing homes for over years now. My parents insist on staying in their house until the day they die and with the current care that may actually be possible.

The affordable care act is a step closer to universal health care but may be considered a failure from the get-go as those states that haven’t expanded Medicaid still leave millions uninsured. It could be a considered a failure as none of it addressed the skyrocketing cost of healthcare that seems to be unprecedented elsewhere on this globe. Insurance itself seems to have failed as long as not everything is covered. Depending on what is covered and what is not you’re still facing financial ruin regardless of what insurance you carry.

If you read my book you’ll read how we had to collect money for one of my colleagues to help out after he was struck with a serious illness. This was someone who made a handsome six figure salary and who was covered by what was supposed to be great coverage from his employer. It shouldn’t have to be this way. It is this fear of not being able to handle a medical emergency that drove me to building the nest-egg we have today. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do so and I believe many of you can too. That said, we shouldn’t have to be building nest-eggs to cover ourselves. That is exactly what insurance is supposed to do.

I don’t have the answers on how to fix healthcare costs (or any costs of care for that matter) in the states but I know and have seen firsthand how other developed nations are doing it better.

Can’t the powers that be here try a little harder here to do better?

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About Maarten van Lier

Maarten came to this country with a suitcase and a diploma. He created a financial plan and goal to become a millionaire in 10 years. He successfully turned his financial goals into reality, wrote a book about it and now blogs actively in hope of inspiring other to do the same.