One cant live in a place forever without, at
some point, having to become involved in the health care system.
Lynn and I are now Dutch health care veterans. When we first got
here we became enrolled in an insurance plan. There are private
plans, which we are in, paid for by totally the employer at a rate
less than what an American might pay as his contribution, not
counting what the employer pays. There are also government programs.
The best I can tell with my limited view is that the private plans
give you more coverage and the cost, at least to an American eye, is
very reasonable to the employer and zero to the participant.
I take two prescription meds. When I ran out of
the first, I called the huisarts, the doctor, and he called the
pharmacy. I was told to pick up the stuff that afternoon. I went in,
they handed it to me and said thanks. No cost, no forms (other than
showing my insurance card), no hassle.
The second one wasnt quite so simple. The
American name of the med was unknown to the doctor when we first
visited him in January but he said hed look it up. Meanwhile, I had
enough to last me until last week.
I wasnt paying attention and ran out before I
realized I had none left. I called the doc. He was away for Easter.
I went to the pharmacy. They looked it up under the name I knew and
found its equivalent. The insurance is supposed to cover it but
because I didnt have a prescription, the pharmacy said they
wouldnt. Never mind that she could even sell it to me without a
prescription, but thats a whole different subject. I was able to
procure five pills for 6.40.
When I went back to the doc on Tuesday for my
full prescription, they somehow still didnt know what the Dutch
version was but the woman told me they would look it up and I could
pick up the stuff at 5PM at the pharmacy. At 5PM I went to the
pharmacy where there was nothing for me. They called the doc who
said he wanted me to come back with the container. First, the
container is unreadable because I use one thats several years old
due to its small size. Second, the pharmacy already knew what the
equivalent was so why didnt they just tell him? Third, if the doc
wanted me to come back, why didnt he call me instead of waiting
several more hours, causing me to make the unnecessary trip and then
just catching the doc before he closed for the day? They knew
something was missing but instead of doing something about it, they
did nothing until I came up empty. Theyre not great in some areas
of customer service.
As an aside, the first time you get a
prescription, theyre only supposed to give you ten pills, not a
three months supply. Thats so the insurance company doesnt pay for
90 if the stuff doesnt agree with you, which is a good idea. They
gave me the 90 anyway and before they realized I had insurance, they
said it was 13.40. So for 90 pills it was 13.40 but for five it
was 6.40. Eighteen times the number of pills for about two times
the cost. Why does it seem that something is wrong there?
So all is now well with me and Lynn decided I had
all the fun and it was her turn to get sick. She started coughing
away and had two sleepless nights. The cough syrup she used the
first day didnt do much so I went back to the pharmacy for another
kind. The pharmacist gave me another kind but showed me that it will
expire at the end of this month, four weeks away. As such, she had
to give it to me for free. Gallantly, I let her have her way without
Today was the third day of Lynn not being well
and even though its Sunday, I thought it best for her to see the
huisarts. I called his after-hours number and discovered that during
off-hours, one goes to the huisarts post at the hospital. Its a
separate building on the hospital grounds thats a regular doctors
office and is apparently manned by one doctor on a rotating shift
during off-hours. Lynn explained her symptoms and was given a
prescription for antibiotics. We walked out and she said what I was
thinking: there were no questions as to other meds she might take,
there was no throat inspection nor anything one might expect a
doctor to do in the U.S. The doctor did, though, listen to Lynn
through a stethoscope.
When it was time to get the prescription filled I
wasnt sure what to do. In the Netherlands, one is assigned a
pharmacy and I know ours is closed on Sunday. In fact they almost
all are. But just like theres one doc on call, theres one pharmacy
thats open, or sort of open. I went there and found the door
locked, scratched my head a few times, pulled on the handle again
which was still locked, and as I thought about what to do, someone
buzzed me in. I opened the door and that was as far as I could go. A
wall had been lowered into the rest of the store and the pharmacist
was behind something that resembled a ticket office window. Slide
the prescription and insurance card under the glass, then they slide
the stuff back out. Forget buying anything else in the drugstore
because all the others are closed so that wouldnt be fair. I should
point out that a pharmacy is a pharmacy, not like CVS or Rite-Aid.
They dont sell shampoo, after-shave, bar soap, or anything else
like that. Thats the area of a different kind of store like
Kruidvat which sells no pharmaceuticals except low strength
Lynn is now on her way to recovery. Our general
impression is that its cheaper to get sick here because insurance
costs so much less and covers everything, but we dont have the warm
fuzzy that they are as thorough as (we think) they are in the U.S.
about examining the patient to see if the patients description is
accurate. Of course, we could be wrong, and I certainly hope we are
wrong, but I really hope we never get to find out.