Doctors and dentists could soon choose to only charge patients for co-payments – the non-refundable part of medical expenses – meaning people would no longer have to fork out the fixed fee before being reimbursed.
The Insurance Committee of Riziv, the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance, proposed the initiative during its annual meeting to draw up the budget for next year, according to Jan Eyckmans, the spokesperson for the federal health minister Frank Vandenbroucke.
“They have proposed that those doctors who wish can choose to only charge for co-payments, meaning patients will not have to pay the full fixed fee and then wait to be repaid,” Eyckmans told The Brussels Times.
As it currently stands, a visit to a general practitioner or a dentist for a consultation will cost between €22 and €27, depending on whether the doctor is accredited.
Usually, around 75% of these costs are covered by insurance associations, however, if the proposal is implemented, this in-between step will be removed.
As a result, an annual check-up at the dentist’s may only cost people around €3.50, while a consultation at a general practitioner would cost around €4.
Usually, this third-party payment system is only available for patients in precarious financial situations or for hospital admissions.
Previously, health insurance funds were opposed to this proposal, as they feared it would lead to fraud. However, as the Insurance Committee includes representatives from this group, it is clear there has been a shift in their views of this system.
Eyckmans explained that this proposal will be discussed by Riziv’s general council on 18 October and that it, alongside the government, will have to decide on whether the proposal will be implemented.
He added that Vandenbroucke is in favour of the proposal, but “that the rest of the government, as well as the council, have to agree on the proposal as well before it can be put into practice.”
If implemented, it is up to the doctors and dentists to only ask patients for the co-payments and not for the fixed fee, giving them the choice to follow the new system or not.