In the 52 Flemish hospitals, a patient who opts for a single room spends on average 153 percent more on fee supplements than his fellow sufferer in a multi-bed room. At ten hospitals, the patient even pays 200 percent more than the Riziv rate. “Comparison pays off, because the differences are not bad,” says Jürgen Constandt, chairman of the Vlaams & Neutraal Ziekenfonds (VNZ).
When a patient voluntarily opts for admission to a single room, surgeons, anesthesiologists and other doctors may charge an extra fee supplement on top of the fixed RIZIV rate. The time when those supplements were limited to 100 percent – so a doubling – is now behind us. Fee supplements have therefore long been a thorn in the side of patients and health insurance funds. “There is something perverse about them,” says VNZ chairman Jürgen Constandt. “Patients would still understand that a stay in a comfortable single room costs more than in a double room that offers less privacy, but not why a doctor should charge two to three times more for exactly the same performance, just because the patient is alone.”
From single to double
On average, the fee supplement in Flemish hospitals is 153 percent, according to the Vlaams & Neutraal Ziekenfonds, which collected the figures in January 2023. “But there are big differences between them,” says Jürgen Constandt. For example, three West Flemish hospitals charge a supplement of up to 100 percent, while ten hospitals – including the university ones – charge up to 200 percent extra. “A few years ago the average supplement was still 120 percent, today it is more than a quarter. Hospitals are struggling with underfunding and increasing costs for personnel and materials, but why one hospital gets by with a 100 percent supplement while another invoices double, that is not always objectively explained.”
And then we can’t complain
There are not only local differences, there are also regional ones. The Brussels Region shoots the main bird with an average fee supplement of 270 percent. “A supplement of 300 percent – that is, for a good understanding, four times the official INAMI rate – is even the norm in eight of the eleven Brussels institutions. In Wallonia, too, patients who opt for a single room pay considerably more: an average of 212 percent.” There is only one hospital that is still satisfied with a supplement of 100 percent, that of Mouscron, while the patient in three institutions has to cough up to 300 percent more.
If you want to avoid such supplements, it is best to opt for a double or multiple room, “especially when it comes to an intervention in a day clinic,” says the VNZ chairman. “If you still want a single room, check whether your hospitalization insurance – through your health insurance fund, your employer or a private insurer – covers the fee supplements, how much you have to pay yourself as a deductible and how high the cover is: some only pay up to 100 percent, for example. If your hospital then charges a 150 percent supplement, you will have to pay 50 percent. That is why comparison with other hospitals in the area never hurts.”