1st year work incapacity costs €1,500 from patient’s pocket

1st year work incapacity costs €1,500 from patient’s pocket
Credit: Belga

People unable to work due to a medical condition require better protection against the increasing costs of their situation, Mutualités Libres (Independent Health Insurance Funds) has pleaded.

During their first 12 months of work incapacity, patients pay an average of €1,454 from their pocket for medical expenses.

Work incapacity and disability weigh heavily on the social security budget. INAMI (National Institute of Medical and Inability Insurance) provided figures that show, in fact, that disability benefits more than doubled between 2007 and 2017, rising from €2.4 to €5.4 billion.

Mutualités Libres conducted a study with over 10,000 members concerned by the issue. The study proves the point: during the first 12 months of work incapacity patients must pay approximately €1,454 euros: around five times more than the average expenditure of members aged 20 to 64 (€285).

Indeed, in addition to reimbursement by compulsory health insurance, patients pay themselves between 10 and 15% of their health care costs. But it is during the first 12 months of work incapacity that the expenditure is the highest: 14,059 euros. Mainly because of hospitalization costs (€6,750 average) and medication (€1,830 average).

Chronic illnesses among those unable to work also generate expense. These patients are often under anti-inflammatory medication and/or pain killers (2 persons out of 3), antidepressants (1 in 3), antihypertensives (1 in 4) and are sometimes hospitalized for severe mental disorders (5.8%).

In addition to the loss of revenue related to the inability to work, the chronically ill must also deal with sometimes high additional costs. For example, added hospital expense represents almost half of their personal contribution.

Health Insurance Funds insist that measures be put in place to better protect patients against these costs. "It is also essential to address some sources of social inequality: higher replacement income for those at the poverty line; the same guaranteed salary period for workers and employees; a guaranteed salary period for workers with fluctuating disease, etc.," the statement said.

The Insurance Funds also argue for an action plan to be coordinated between the family doctor, the labour doctor and the medical advisor. "A common platform for a secure exchange of data would be very useful and would allow better collaboration between health care providers," the Insurers insisted.

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