Now that we are living in a different country, people are always curious of how the healthcare system differs from the States. I'd like to think of my view of it as quite unique. As a consumer, I have now dealt with healthcare systems in four different countries and worked in the system in one. These are my observations and experiences thus far between the U.S. and Austria.
- We have the option of choosing the national or a private insurance. We opted for the private for better doctors and it was actually cheaper than the national. Also, the national insurance premiums increase if you don't have a child 2-3 years after joining the plan. We don't try to understand it, we just work with the information.
- We paid about $450 per month back home vs. approximately the equivalent of $365 here. We haven't seen the normal American practice of "usual and customary" charges, which dictates what a procedure should cost. American insurance companies cover a percentage of the usual and customary charges, which sometimes doesn't reflect reality. Here, it's 80% of the actual cost we get back, no questions, haggling, or frustration (...yet).
- Most places here don't have direct ties with private insurance, which means everything has to be paid up front. There is no such thing as a "co-pay". Luckily, the reimbursement is very quick, within 3-5 working days so far. And in fairness, most procedures here are 'affordable' up front.
- You never wait more than 5-10 minutes past your appointment time.This was a shock to me. In the States, sometimes you wait an hour past your appointment time!
- The doctors are very efficient here and do more testing than back in the States. For instance, I have never heard of getting an ultrasound as part of a yearly check-up with a GYN, unless you're pregnant or have history of cysts. But it's part of the norm here. It caught me off guard during my visit.
So far, we haven't had any negative experiences or complaints. Even veterinarian care here is far cheaper! Our dog has a heart murmur. His visit to the cardiologist, which included an EKG, was $700 back home and the same visit here was about $130. There's no such thing as pet insurance either and with a huge price discrepancy, you wouldn't need it.