As clarified in EU legislation last year, European Union citizens are entitled to health care abroad and compensation of the expenses. The EU expects patient mobility to boom. However, PhD research by Irene Glinos among German UM students indicates that this remains to be seen. Hardly any of them ever visit a Dutch GP.
For years, hordes of Viennese citizens have been going to the dentist in Hungary because it is much cheaper. But would the people from Vienna also go abroad if they were seriously ill? How important is familiarity with one’s own GP, with the local hospital?
As little research had been done on this subject, Maastricht PhD student Irene Glinos – together with professor Hans Maarse and student Nora Doering – put it to the test. Having said that, Danish/Greek Irene Glinos tackled it somewhat differently. Instead of focusing on Dutch citizens who go abroad for treatment, she looked at foreigners living in the Netherlands. In this case, German students who had lived in Maastricht for at least one year. The question was whether they make use of Dutch health care?
The results leave nothing to the imagination. Based on 235 returned questionnaires, it appeared that 97 per cent of German students visit a dentist, GP or specialist in their own country; and 72 per cent has never seen a Maastricht doctor. Most return to their home town, even if they have to travel eight hundred kilometres; others go just across the border.
Why do they do that? Not because they think so little of the Dutch health care or have had appalling experiences, but because of familiarity with their own doctors, with the system and the language, and because of the ease of reimbursement. In short, according Glinos, it is exactly because of this home country appeal that patient mobility will not become a big thing in the near future.