Free health care in Norway. Almost perfect…
As you may or may not know, health care in Norway is (almost) free. Yes, I know this is hard to believe for most people. Norway was originally supposed to be included in the Michael Moore movie ‘Sicko‘ on the workings/failing of health care systems on this planet, but he decided to take it out because the system has several similarities with the French health care system, and some parts just sounded too good to be true…
Some examples: Any treatment & examinations connected to a pregnancy are 100% free. From the very first check until the delivery: no cost at all! (and after the birth, a year of maternity leave for the mother, and a minimum of 6 weeks for the father!).
Norwegian patients treated for an illness like psoriasis or rheumatism are eligible for two weeks paid vacation at a spa in the Canary Islands. Norway hires a government ethicist to determine who they should spend their money on, because they want to do it in an ethical way.
Well, today it was my turn to experience the ‘free’ health care system in Norway.
Free is not 100% accurate since doctors do charge for their consults (NOK 160, US$ 29), and you are charged for your medication, but there is a max. of NOK 1740 (about US$315) a year. (I am not sure whether this amount is the same for all, or whether it’s based on your income…) If my health care expenses were to be more than that, the government would pick up the tab.
I went to see the doctor to have my ears checked (yes, I am herewith admitting I have a selective hearing) 😛
I arrived at 1:40pm, right on time for my 1:45pm appointment. Or so I thought…
The waiting room was quite full, but since it’s a collective office of 3 doctors, I wasn’t too worried. I had to wait until 2:30pm until it was eventually my turn. That 45 mins. wait wasn’t too bad compared to some of the stories I heard in the waiting room of people who had to wait 3-4 hours on previous visits…!
Now I do not know how it is nowadays in the Netherlands (where I grew up), but when I was young (25 years ago) I hardly ever had to wait. Every time I had a doctors appointment the doctor was all mine on the scheduled time. But perhaps this has changed as well…
Anyway… After the wait I was welcomed by my doctor to whom I explained why I was there. One of his first questions was whether I had had this specific problem before. That question proved to me that he had not looked at my medical records, because then he would have seen that my last visit to him, a couple of years ago, was for exactly the same reason as today’s visit…!
After a quick but thorough check I was handed off to a nurse/assistant (no waiting time there) who would carry out some ‘ear maintenance’. Even though the doctor told her that my left ear was a lot worse than my right ear, she decided to do my right ear first. Perhaps because it was on her left side? 😉
But I shouldn’t be complaining about the order in which she did my ears, since the result was the same: my hearing is back to 100% (well, I guess not 100%… not many 35-year olds still have 100% hearing…)
She then handed me a test kit and parked me in the examining room of the doctor where I was to wait until he was done with the patient he was taking care of in the mean time. In those 5 minutes I had time to check out the test kit I was given. It turned out to be a FOBT! My first thought was… yup, you guessed it… SHIT! 😉
My second thought of course was that it must be a mistake… Which it turned out to be, when I asked the doctor. He said that he probably ‘pressed a wrong key’. Can I conclude from this that all Norwegian doctors have a dedicated poop-test key on their keyboards? 😉
So I returned him the test kit and he did another thorough check of my hearing to make sure the nurse/assistant had done her job well (which she had).
Then he gave me a green card on which the doctors keep track of charges, in this case my NOK 160 for the medical consult, so that when I hit the NOK 1740 I do not have to pay more than that. I paid the man, and left.
However… when I got home, I took a closer look at the card. The amount on it was correct, but not the name! And not just misspelled, but my card contained the name and the fødselsnummer (birth number, a national identification number) of someone else! A serious blooper, since these national identification numbers are supposed to be kept confidential. I just hope he did not give some complete stranger a green card with my number on it… :-/
All in all, a first-class experience, with some (computer-related?) bloopers that could have been prevented.
I’m not writing this entry to put down the Norwegian health care system. I probably have a doctor who either has too many patients, or just had an off-day. I mean, it could have been worse… If he’d told the nurse/assistant to do a rectal exam instead of handing me a test kit! 😉