My wife gave birth to our first child on Tuesday. We live in Luxembourg, part of the evil socialist Europe. Let me tell you how it works. If you don't want to read the details of the care up to the birth, fast forward to the funny socialist part.
The details of the health care
During the pregnancy, she has been seeing her doctor every month up to 6 months, then every other week until 8 months, then every week until the due date, and when she passed the due date every other day. He did ultrasound on nearly every visit. Towards the end, he monitored the fetal heart rate and my wife's contractions (or lack thereof).
My wife did blood tests once a month, and based on the results they gave her supplements. She showed a bit of glucose intolerance, and the baby was gaining a bit more weight than desired so they put her on a low sugar diet where she monitored her glucose levels with a little machine like a diabetic.
Start to finish, she gained about 17 lbs.
Total out of pocket cost for everything leading up to birth--tests, doctor visits, medications, glucose monitoring device and glucose strips--124 Euro.
Anyway, because she was well past term, the doctor recommended inducing labor. He called the hospital to schedule a date.
When we arrived on Monday evening, she showed her social security card and they told her which room she'd be staying in. No paperwork required. Soon after we arrived, a midwife told her what would happen. They gave her the first round of medication at midnight, to start the process, followed by the real drug at 0600 the following day to start the contractions. The epidural went in at 0800 and my wife was pain free all day.
Problem was, the kid wouldn't move. At 19:00 everything was happening except the main event and they decided to do a cesarean (the kid's head was just a little off base and wouldn't move).
The staff was extremely professional. There were midwives monitoring her through the 12 hours of labor preceding the cesarean. The doctor prepared and inserted the epidural personally, checked on her several times, and when the decision was made to operate, it was all complete within minutes.
Boy, 3.57 kg (7 lbs, 14 oz), 53 cm (20.8 inches).
Now, my wife and the baby are fine. They have a private room, private bathroom, TV, wireless internet, and direct phone line. The hospital was built in the 1970's, so the room is a bit small and rather dated, but not bad at all. She will be staying in the hospital for 7 days because of the cesarean. If she leaves early, she can ask a midwife to visit our house for an hour each day for 10 days to provide assistance.
Today, the pediatrician took the baby for his initial tests. All good. He comes back on day 4 or 5 for the second round of tests.
The funny socialist part
I registered the birth today. They gave me a blue piece of paper. It has 3 sections. The first section is completed by showing you have done all of the recommended pre-natal care (I think my wife's doctor gave her stamps at each visit for this purpose). Upon receipt, the state will send us a check for 1000 Euro.
The second section is completed by showing the child has received all the recommended care within the first year. The first was the visit from the pediatrician today, the second will be in a few days, and so on. The doctor stamps the paper at each visit. Upon receipt, the state will send us a second check for 500 Euro.
The third section is the same as the second, but for the recommended care within the second year. Another 500 Euro.
I'm not sure what to make of it. They are paying us 2000 Euro (About $2700) to do what is right for our child. It doesn't seem like it should be required. Yet, for me, I know nothing about kids, so I'm happy because it is like the maintenance schedule for a car.
Also note that these payments have nothing to do with income. They are the same whether the family makes minimum wage or 6-figures.
The fantastic socialist part which is unbelievable that they can afford
My wife stopped working 2 months ago and will be off work for 9 more months. The first 5 months, she receives full pay. The last 6 months, she receives about 50% of her pay. Once she is done with her 6 months, I can take 6 months off at 50% pay (I won't because I'm the only one in my office in Europe and it would be the equivalent of shutting down the business).
Is there a price to pay? Sure, cigarettes are remarkably expensive. Gasoline is $4 a gallon. There is 15% VAT (like a sales tax) on everything. However, income taxes, capital gains taxes, and payroll taxes are similar to the U.S. That is unique to very wealthy Luxembourg. In other mainland EU countries (Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France) either the payroll tax or income tax or both are higher.
I am very happy with the national health system here. The care my wife received from start to finish was excellent and from what I can tell, everyone involved had only one objective--to make sure my wife and the baby were healthy. My wife never had to wait for any appointment, test, procedure, or anything else along the way. When they decided to induce labor, she went to the hospital the same day as when her doctor made the recommendation.
Now, it is unfair to compare Luxembourg--a very small, very wealthy country--with the U.S. However, we have many friends in France (population 60 million, 5th or 6th largest economy in the world) and their experiences have been very similar.