Examining Health Care Myths

Monthly Archives: September 2012


Examining Health Care Myths

Posted by in Blog,Cost of Living | September 21, 2012

There are many myths in America surrounding the European health care system.  This post attempts to clear up some of the confusion.

Basic health care is a European Union entitlement (yes Lem, this is socialism at its finest).  All citizens are guaranteed basic health care regardless of their ability to pay.  In Malta, it is a four tier system as follows:

There is basic health care which covers everything and is free, Mater Dei is the national health care hospital.  And yes, you do have to wait to get treatment for non emergency services.  This is quite helpful for services that can be planned ahead such as annual visits to gynecologists or dermatologists – you make the appointment far in advance.  There is no waiting list for emergency services.

Mater Dei Hospital

Next, there are seven polyclinics dispersed around the island.  These also provide free services, they are satellites of Mater Dei hospital.  There is less of a wait at the polyclinics and they can also be used for routine services that can be planned ahead such as blood tests and mammograms.

Thirdly, there are private hospitals which are typically run by the Church.  Fees are charged but the prices are not exorbitant, they are affordable.  These can also be paid by private insurance (some have private insurance so that they don’t have to pay out of pocket when they use the hospital and, the ability to pay immediately by either cash or insurance keeps you off of any potential waiting lists). These hospitals are used for non-emergency operations such as cancer treatments, orthopedic surgeries, foot and ankle surgery, sports injuries, etc.

Mater Dei Hospital

Finally, there are consultants who are private doctors that you pay for when services are rendered. Insurance typically covers these costs. There is no wait to see these doctors other than the doctor’s normal schedule.

It is wonderful to have this basic right provided by the government and to have such reasonable prices, unlike in America the Maltese do not worry about bankruptcy or losing their homes if they contract a serious illness.  Even at the level of consultant, the cost to see a doctor is very reasonable.

To visit our local general practitioner, it costs €9 to see the doctor or €15 for a house call (yes, they still make house calls!).  We have been to see a few consultants and so far, none of them has cost more than €40 – €50 for the visit, including the dentist.  Lab work costs €15 – €20.

For me, as an American, I was advised to get private insurance when we arrived.  As Tony is a European Union citizen, he is entitled to the free services.  Once our residency is final (which should be any time now), as the spouse of an EU citizen I will be entitled to the same benefits as Tony.

Cost of Living

Posted by in Blog,Cost of Living | September 14, 2012

It is so inexpensive to live in Malta, one of the main factors that prompted us to move here now. Especially compared to pricey Fairfield County, Connecticut!

The examples below are in euros which are about 1/3 higher than US dollars (i.e. one euro = $1.30 US).  Since we live here, we consider the euro as though they are dollars.

Starting with the biggest expense, rent.

We have a 5 bedroom 2 story house that has a garden and a pool as well as private parking (parking can be a big issue all over Malta) and is out in the country.  We pay €1,000 a month rent plus €100 a month for all utilities.  Considering we were paying $3,400 a month in Connecticut just for our mortgage and property taxes, along with another $600 – $700 a month for utilities, this is incredible really.  And, we could find a house even cheaper if we chose something just a bit smaller.  Or, if we got an apartment, we could get a nice one for €500 a month.

A haircut for me costs €9, yep, 9 euros, that’s not a typo.  And €45 for highlights.  In Connecticut, I was paying $250 plus tip for highlights and a haircut.  Plus a 20% tip.  There is no tipping in Europe, or if you really want to tip for good service you leave a euro or two.  Tony’s haircut is €7.

Our car insurance is a whopping €300 per year, and an evening out at a concert is €20 each.

I have applied to go back to University (classes start in 2 weeks) for a degree in Art History and Psychology, and there is a 99% chance that I will be able to attend for free.  Rock on socialism!

An average bottle of local wine is 3-5 euros and we can go out for an inexpensive dinner for 20-30 euros for the two of us.  Needless to say, we drink alot of wine and go out to eat a lot at these prices.

This year I purchased medical insurance because I came over as an American (next year I won’t need it as I will be a Maltese resident) for the staggering amount of €1,100 for the entire year.  Tony doesn’t need medical insurance at all as he is a European Union citizen.  If we had stayed in the States we would have been paying $1,600 per month.

To visit the local doctor, we go to the pharmacy where the doctor has office hours every day.  It is €9 to see him and he will make a house call for €15.  Not all health care is free however, I will dedicate my next blog posting to explaining how the health care system works.

Amazing prices, right??

Stormy Weather

Posted by in Blog,Weather | September 4, 2012

Perhaps you have read about the weather in Malta in my older blog posts where I wrote that it is always sunny, hot and humid, not a cloud to be seen.  Well, Sunday afternoon a friend of ours flew in from England saying that it was the bumpiest flight he’s ever had to Malta.

Four hours later one of the biggest blackest clouds I have ever seen was right over our house.  Picture the black cloud that transported Dorothy to the Land of Oz.  Within five minutes, the wind was whipping and howling, there was thunder and lightning, and the rain came down in sheets.  I had a glass on the outdoor table that went flying through the air and shattered into a million pieces.  The outdoor furniture was blown everywhere.  After an hour or two, it subsided.  Then, about 5am it started up all over again.  The lightning was so continuous that it seemed like a strobe light was flashing.  The thunder claps terrified the cats AND me and the rain was torrential.  Our house and garden both flooded.

About 4pm (now Monday) it started up for a third time!  We were advised not to go out to the appointment we had as streets all over the island were flooded and traffic was a snarled mess.  This time, we lost our power…felt just like we were still in Connecticut…

However, unlike in Connecticut, the power company fixed it in a reasonable timeframe—3 hours versus 8 days.  This morning we heard that one person was killed by lightning in the next village over.  Yikes.  I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…