Not a lot of people realize or know what countries across the ocean offer to their people in terms of healthcare. When a few months ago I went back home, to Lithuania, I was fascinated by some of the benefits people have access to.
However, don’t get too excited and remember, there are always two sides to a story.
At my work I accrue vacation time. I also get about two weeks of personal leave. When I get sick, I can stay home and use either my personal leave or vacation time. I have to admit that spending time in bed with a horrible headache and a congested nose is not how I imagine a great vacation. But I do that at least once a year. Upside: when I stay home sick, I get my usual paycheck. Downside: when I got sick in January, I had to use a pretty good chunk of my time. Now I am in a saving vacation time mode. A side note: if I get seriously ill, I would go on short-term disability that would not affect my vacation time or personal leave.
My friend gets 28 days of vacation every year (compared to my 15 days) that are totally and beautifully unaffected by any sickness. If my friend gets sick, all she needs to do is to call a doctor and get a note, stating that she is sick and should stay at home. The first two days of sickness are fully paid by the employer. Starting from the third day of sickness, the government pays 40% of her salary. The employer’s portion is 60%. Upside: no vacation time is used! Downside: is there a downside? A side note: there is also a short-term and long-term disability insurance. It is somewhat similar to ours.
Beaker pays about 9% of his gross salary, and I pay about 4% of my gross salary for insurance premiums. Our deductible is $1,000. However, we don’t have to pay any co-payments when we visit a doctor’s office because both of us are double covered. Otherwise the co-pay is $25. All preventive care such as a physical exam once a year is fully covered by the insurance. We are not required to have insurance. If we think that we are invincible, we can choose to forgo our insurance and take our chances. Upside: our premiums are not really too high, and insurance provides pretty good coverage. Downside: I am not excited about our deductible. Not at all! A side note: You can always have a flexible spending account and save up for the deductible.
Everyone pays 6% in insurance premiums of their gross salary. Health insurance is required, and it is government subsidized.
The Lithuanian government pays insurance premiums for children up to 18 years old, seniors, and the unemployed (those who are registered) and … get ready for something really awesome…full-time students. Private insurance is available to companies who want to additionally insure their employees.
My friend does not have to pay any co-pays when she visit’s a doctor. However, she has two choices: she can go to a state clinic and pay nothing. Or she can choose a private clinic and pay the difference in price. However, if she needs to fill a prescription, she will have to pay out of pocket.
Upside: insurance is not expensive. There are no co-pays and no cost if you choose to use a state clinic. There are no deductibles. Downside: if you want better care you will have to bribe (yes, bribery is still very common) a state clinic employee or go and pay a lot of money in a private clinic.
Pregnancy, Birth Control and Child Care
My insurance partially covers birth control but does not cover abortions (unless medically necessary) or in vitro fertilization. However, to this day I never had to pay for my birth control because of the double coverage I have with Beaker.
Pregnancy medical expenses are covered about 80%.
If I’d ever have a baby, I would have to use all my vacation time and personal leave in order to be able to stay home with the baby. I would use the Family Medical Leave Act to make sure I still have a job when I return from maternity leave. I would be able to take up to 12 weeks off but mostly unpaid. Beaker could stay home and take care of our baby for another 12 weeks. Then what? Day care at an age of 24 weeks?! Upside: I honestly see none! Downside: all of the above.
When a child is born, the government pays approximately $700 to parents. Pregnancy and any related medical expenses including labor is fully covered by the government.
My friend or her husband can take maternity leave for a duration of three years. Yes, I said it right – three years. If my friend chooses to stay home only one year, she will get paid 100% of her salary. If she chooses to stay two years, she will get paid 70% of her salary in the first year, 40% in the second year. She can work in the second year and make some additional income without losing any part of 40%. Upside: I was speechless when I heard all of this. Downside: I don’t see any.