Category Archives: Vienna

Breaking your collarbone in a country with socialized healthcare

As an American professional, I’m accustomed to HMOs, PPOs, group policies, co-pays, etc. I’ve now lived in Austria for over five years, and I’m learning my way around its brand of socialized medicine.

I personally opted for private insurance, rather than the public, but the way it works, I often get the same care, particularly when I go to a hospital.

So, two weeks ago, my son and I head home from his swim lesson, he on his scooter, I on my longboard. And I hit a wet patch of concrete I didn’t see and wipe out. Hard. I’m near blind with pain, but I manage to get up, reassure my son, and get him home. In retrospect, it would have made more sense to get to the hospital immediately, but, well, I didn’t.

Anyway, I get to the hospital and here’s how it goes (It’s a Saturday, by the way.):

12:30: Check in. They ask for my eCard, I explain I have private insurance and will be paying myself. Fine, they’ll send the bill to my house.

12:40: Wait.

13:15: See doctor, who examines me, asks where it hurts, and sends me to the Röntgen Ambulanz (in-house X-ray).

13:25: Wait.

13:30: get X-rayed

13:35: Wait.

13:40: Doctor confirms broken clavicle, prescribes Seractil (dexibuprofen), tells me to come back in a week. Nurse fits me for sling and swathe.

13:45: check out

The Seractil costs 7€ ($8) and is very effective on the pain.

The hospital bill comes to 106.80€ ($117). Total. My insurance company will reimburse me 80% of that, so I’ll only pay 21€.

I go back to the hospital a week later (Friday morning). I’m in and out in an hour. Treatment included another X-ray and feedback from the doctor.

Went back today and it was the same – in and out in an hour. It’s healing well, by the way.

So I’ve been to the hospital three times, seen doctors each time, gotten three x-rays, and checked in as a new patient once. Total time is less than I’ve typically spent in a single hospital visit in the US. The cost, even before I get reimbursed, is a fraction of American medical costs.

I’m telling an outpatient hospital story because the experience is the same whether I have private insurance or not. Private insurance makes more of a difference with in-patient or doctor care, but even then the difference is more about comfort – private rooms and whatnot.