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The downside of travel

Internationally Known

The downside of travel

We travel a ton and it finally happened. I needed a hospital stay in a foreign country... being hospitalized in Germany was a whole different experience! No privacy at all, like topless with a door open to the hallway like it's no big deal, no curtains between patient beds and discussing patient information openly.  They also do not check on you, apparently you have to request pain meds and the food is very European to say the least. 

 

Has anyone else had a horrible experience whilst traveling abroad? How did you feel about it compared to our health care in the states?

12 Replies
Internationally Known

Re: The downside of travel

Sound like you really had a horrible experience! Wonder what kind of hospital you went to?

 

There are all kinds of hospitals, state of the art to older ones (usually run by the city). Fair to say that you can't expect American food in a German hospital, right? So no burgers or french fries :-)

The standard coverage in Germany provides for a stay in a multibed room. Depending on the hospital, the room can consist of 2 to 4 beds. If you want to have a single room, you have to buy into supplemental insurance or pay extra. Medication should be given to every patient no matter what but in general they are not as generous with drugs as in the U.S. Here you have a headache and you get 90 tablets of opioids. Not happening in Germany. But if you raise your concern, they should be there for you. You can also request that they shut the door for privacy, I am sure you had a device next to your bed that had a call buttom. They usually open the door when it is either time for breakfast, lunch or dinner or the general doctor's visit. Did you communicate with the staff?

Medical coverage in Germany in general is much more generous that in the U.S. and by far not as costly. You never have to worry if any of the doctors is within your network or not. No goofy charges of any kind, you don't even see the bill. Emergency vehicles are free of charge. Co-payments for drugs are much lower. No deductibles, no co-payments for any procedures, except a € 10 fee per day at the hospital. No pre-existing condition exclusions, no cancelations of insurance policies because you get sick. You can keep the insurance your entire lifetime if you like, no matter if you are suddenly unemployed or you retired. Any increase in insurance rates is in the range of 0.5 to 2% max, not the 18-30% or more we are used to in the meantime in the U.S.

And finally, good hospitals in Germany have probably the best medical equipment the world can buy. The leading medical equipment companies in the world are German. Nurses undergo a far more rigorous education than here in the U.S. 

Sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience. Not refective of what you can get in the country.

Internationally Known

Re: The downside of travel

Thanks kranzie10 for bringing up this great topic. I've been wondering a long time about exactly what would happen if we needed medical care abroad. Luckily we've not had any issues...yet.... I'm curious as to what type of insurance you had and if it covered your stay? Did you have to pay out of pocket at the hospital and be reimbursed? How exactly did that all go down? We have regular group BC/BS that says they will pay it as out of network (80%) and we have emergency evac coverage, but have long wondered exactly what would happen if we were in a serious situation overseas. Thanks!

Nationally Recognized

Re: The downside of travel

Sorry to hear about your having to stay in the hospital while on vacation. I haven't had to do this, but I used to sell heart valves and my territory was Western Europe. It was easiest to track down the surgeons at the hospital, so I had the chance to see many of them. I have to say, the ones in Germany always appeared to be very clean and the staff members I interacted with were always cordial. I was always impressed.  I hope your recovery was quick. 

RJean
Internationally Known

Re: The downside of travel

@Ed4000, we had to go to a hospital in Manila. My wife needed special medication that was not available at a regular pharmacy. To get access to the medication, she had to see a doctor. Our insurance at that time included worldwide coverage as long as we were at least 100 miles away from home. We had access to a hotline, they provided the doctors name. As it was not a real emergency at that point, we had to wait for about 2 hours. Consultation was pretty cheap but the medication was very expensive (and we needed supply for nearly 7 weeks as on the islands it would not have been available at all). Final bill was close to $ 1,000 and we had to prepay. Once home, I got in touch with the insurance and they reimbursed us for the entire amount except the copay. Unfortunately, we lost the insurance when we moved. 

We also had to see a dentist in Germany and in Portugal. In both cases we had to prepay and we did not get reimbursed. Claimed it as medical expenses in our tax return.

Nationally Recognized

Re: The downside of travel

Wow - I would not expect this!

Internationally Known

Re: The downside of travel

It wasn't a bad experience, just very different.  They did explain to me the way to call staff and request meds, it just was not expected.  On the care side, I do believe that they have excellent care. I was in Homburg, so I went to Saarland University teaching hospital there, which is one of the best. 

Internationally Known

Re: The downside of travel

We are actually covered by Tricare, as my husband is retired military, so our insurance is amazing. Fortunately, Homburg is not far from Ramstein and Landstuhl, so they have people in the hospital that I stayed in that were able to help us navigate the system.

Internationally Known

Re: The downside of travel

Big relief, you had a great insurance. Makes such a difference if you don’t have to worry about charges. Hope you are doing well again!

Agree with you that a multibed room in a hospital is a bit awkward. Close to none privacy, in particular when you or the others get visitors or when the doctor or medical staff is checking on you. 

But it is much cheaper and if you live there and don’t like the system, you can always opt for private insurance. They however act very similar to the insurance companies in the U.S. Insurance rates are low when you are young and healthy but constantly increase with age and are at some point quite costly. Once you opt out of the public insurance system, they don’t have to take you back.

Insurances in Germany also cover vision and dental care, and you always have a free choice of doctors, hospitals or other care facilities.

 

Healthcare is just a topic I can get excited about. Here in the U.S., they always try to tell people how horrible and socialist the healthcare systems in other countries such as Norway, Sweden, U.K., Germany and Canada are. The good part of any of those for sure is that you never ever have to worry about the cost of treatment, despite the fact that insurance rates are a fraction of what we have to pay in the U.S. And there is definitely no fine print you have to worry about.

I went to a hospital in San Diego. I stayed only for three nights, had a single room that allowed my wife to stay overnight. The room alone for only 3 nights was 50,000 $. All doctors, meds, surgeons etc. were extra. Thankfully, I had a very comprehensive insurance that covered 100% of my hospital stay. I know many people and have friends who have a 20% copay in addition to high deductibles only because the insurance rate is lower. That’s a big gamble in my opinion. And apparently those types of insurance contracts are the apparent solution to our sky high insurance rates. No thanks. 

Stately Explorer

Re: The downside of travel

Glad you're okay! 

 

My partner and I lived and worked in China for three years, we both had our fair share of village-like clinics to sketchy government run hospitals. Unfortauntely, we were not insured by any Western insurance we just had to use the public hopsitals and clinics. We could have paid for Western hospital stays/clinics, but the cost is just ridiculous compared to what you pay in a public one.

 

Our numerous hospital visits in China basically began at 7:00AM because if you haven't made an 'appointment', you're lining up early to get seen. There's no triage of any kind, there is an ER but the ER is also filled to the brim. You basically stand in lines all day long, get seen for about 5 mins whilst overly curious Chinese are in the room staring at you and listening to your conversation with the doctor. You shuffle from one line to the next, blood draws are done quickly in an assembly line fashion. They run all sorts of tests even if you know exactly what's wrong (ie: My partner came down with bronchitis and they insisted on her doing a million tests before a final diagnosis), by the time you're done the first doctor you saw has left for the day and the second doctor has no idea and does an entire check again. The particular hospital we went to also shutdown for a lunch time siesta! 12pm-2pm, NO ONE was seen. The "ER" was open, but again, overflow from the regular part of the hospital you may as just wait until they re-open. 5pm hits, and doctors start going home. 

 

The only comfort was knowing I was paying pennies for any exam or doctor visit, the most we paid was $150 out of pocket for xrays, MRI's, blood draws, and finally medicine! 

 

The biggest issue with going to government run hospitals as a foreigner is that you are going to be stared at by the locals. They will be ALL UP in your business and the whole needing to undress for any xrays/MRI's is very uncomfortable with people wanting to basically watch you.

 

Another time I needed an IV for fluids and worked on a college campus, the good thing was there was a clinic on campus, and only cost me around $5USD, the bad thing was it definitely had a WWII like feel. The nurse also gabbed the needle into my hand and not into my vein and that hurt like hell. 

 

Another somewhat crazy go-along experience was when my partner got a cortisol shot behind a random curtain from a random nurse in a local village clinic. It actually helped her with the knee pain, cost pennies, and only took us 1hr from start to finish. That same day, we had gone to the hospital for help, and they only took xrays and told us to return the next day. *eye roll*. 

 

In sum, I love how inexpensive healthcare is in China, BUT I was VERY happy to return to the states to receive my annual check ups and what not.