Solidaris is concerned that setting up hospital networks will increase ambulance transport costs from one hospital to another.
The health insurance provider voiced the concerns in a press release issued on Friday. They also pointed out that transport costs have already increased a lot over the last few years.
The idea behind creating networks is to improve access to care by centralising specialist care at certain sites.
Belgium should have had 25 hospital networks on the 1st of January 2020. But only Walloon hospitals are currently organised this way as Flanders and Brussels have exceeded the deadline set by the government to set them up.
But Solidaris says this could “increase costs due to patients being transported between hospitals in the same network more frequently.” However, they did say that “centralising specialist services should save money and provide better healthcare for patients.”
The health insurance company did a study on 2018 data to show these types of costs can be unpredictable and lead to higher costs for patients.
“The average bill is 106 euros if the patient needs an ambulance and 163 euros if they need to be hospitalised but these costs could go up to more than 2,000 euros per transfer,” Solidaris warned. The insurance company also said the cost could be even higher if the patient needs to be transferred several times within a year, which is the case for nearly one in five patients (17%).
“Networking hospitals is a good thing, but we must keep an eye on the indirect effects on patients when implementing this reform, in particular the increase in ambulance transportation costs that would come as a result of centralising care,” said Solidaris general secretary Jean-Pascale Labille.
Solidaris says medically fragile or socio-economically vulnerable patients must not bear the financial burden of networking hospitals.
These costs should be covered by insurance companies as the reforms are being introduced because hospitals want them.