An increasing number of people in Belgium are postponing healthcare this year, with almost half of French-speaking Belgians doing without at least one healthcare service for financial reasons.
A high number of people in need of care have decided to give up on one health care service because they can not afford it, according to the annual survey of 1,000 people in Brussels and Wallonia, conducted by the socialist mutual insurance company Solidaris.
“Caring for oneself or going without care is becoming an adjustment variable in the household budget,” a press release stated.
Meanwhile, the general postponement of care has increased by 13.2 points between 2015 and 2021. People in precarious situations are most likely to be affected by this (around 60%), “further deepening social and health inequalities.” However, it is also increasingly affecting the middle class (an increase of 17 points over the last six years).
People who are unable to work are most likely to postpone care for this reason, as three in four of them have indicated that they had to postpone at least one treatment in 2021.
Most likely to be postponed are specialist treatments (an increase of 12.2 points was reported since 2015); this problem has also grown for mental health care services, as “in 2021, 27% of people who needed care had to postpone psychological care or appointments with specialists for financial reasons.”
Yet the care that is most often postponed due to financial reasons is dental care, with 30% of patients indicating they postponed getting treated by a dentist.
Gender and other inequalities
The survey also found that women, single-parent families (66.7%) and 40-59-year-olds (57.7%) are more likely to have postponed care in the past year.
While one woman in two (50.8%) women had to forego at least one treatment this year (+11.2 points), the figure is 44.3% for men (+12.7 points) “Inequality between men and women persists in terms of access to healthcare,” Solidaris stated.
The insurance company has urged several systematic changes to avoid the postponement of care due to financial reasons.
“Faced with these facts, we advocate guaranteeing access to health care, on the one hand by paying particular attention to the most fragile populations in terms of socio-economics and health and on the other hand by demanding the full reimbursement of primary health care,” it stated.
Solidaris also stressed the importance of strengthening access to psychological care by “continuing efforts in this area within the framework of the recent agreement providing for the reimbursement of consultations with psychologists under certain conditions.”
It added that there must be a right for increased financial support for households in difficulty, such as single-parent families, households with a single long-term unemployed person or if the main breadwinner is off work.