Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Storm Over Medical Reforms

Hi Everyone,

Yesterday I ran across an article on the New York Times* website about the medical reforms that are taking place in the Czech Republic. The Czech government instituted major reforms in health care that took effect in January of this year. One of the major reforms put in place was for people to pay when they see the doctor. This has had a huge impact on many people here, especially the elderly and disabled.

Back in the day, the state (mainly under communism) took care of all the health needs of the people. No one had to pay anything in most cases! And if they did, usually the fees/prices were subsidized and were very small. This had been the norm for almost 60 years. Now, however, everyone must pay to see the doctor, pay for the doctor to write prescriptions, and then pay for the medicines that have been prescribed. There is also now a charge for hospital stays.

The fees don’t sound very high from a Western point of view. The fee to see a general practitioner or a specialist is 30 KC (about $1.85—paid to each doctor you have to see for your health problem), the fee charged per prescription is 30 KC (about $1.85) and then there is a charge for the medicine, itself, the charge per day in hospital is 60 KC (about $4.00). These sound like bargain prices to our ears, and we wonder how anyone could be upset to pay these amounts! First, we need to understand what the average monthly take home pay is…then we begin to see the dilemma.

The average salary in the Czech Republic is about $1200/month, in the US the average salary/month is at least twice this amount. The average pension or disability payment is around $540/month. These are the average amounts…many salaries and pensions are much lower than this. Let’s look at the average pension amount of $540/month. Out of this must be paid rent, utilities, public transportation, groceries, and medical expenses. Just for some perspective, the average grocery bill for one month’s food, for 2 people, is almost $300. That’s over one half of the monthly pension! Rents are very high in Prague, with the average person paying about $500/month for a small one-room flat. Looking at just these two figures, it is pretty easy to see why people are upset about having to pay the doctor! Also consider that older people and those with chronic health problems have to take several medicines each day. The cost quickly becomes prohibitive for those on a fixed income.

The government is planning on moving the Czech health care system more toward the system we have in the US. That will make things much harder on pensioners and disabled people, unless their pensions are raised to balance the increase in costs and inflation. These are the reasons so many people are upset over the changes in the Czech health care system. This is why having to pay the equivalent of $1.85/doctor visit, etc. is such a hardship for many people here.

We face similar problems in the US…it is very hard for pensioners and disabled people to make ends meet in our country, too. But, it’s very important to have some perspective when reading this type of story in our news in the US, and having an understanding of some of the background before wondering what the big deal is!

You all have a great day!

God bless,

Sherry :0)

© 2008 by czechoffthebeatenpath

*Kulish, Nicholas “$1.85 Fee to See a Doctor? Some Say It’s Too Much” New York Times. May 27, 2008. New York Times.


Eso said...

Eveything what you say is true, but I want to add another perspective.
It's true you have to pay now these fees if you visit doctor. And you have to pay mothly fee for health insurance (but for people who have low income, state subsides these payments to them).

But on other side - you don't pay for expensive treatments or surgeries.
My father died last year - he was very ill for two years, he had an incurable disease and his meds were very expensive - for example, only his injections costed about 7000Kč (430$) PER DAY! He had to undergo dialysis three times per week at the end. And he (we) needn't to pay anything for it.

I can't imagine, how would it be, if we lived in USA.

Sher said...

Hi Eso, Thanks for your comment and adding further information and understanding to this post!

I'm very sorry to hear about your father. And you're the US the costs would have been horrible.