A guide to medical care in Luxembourg

A guide to medical care in Luxembourg

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Luxemblogger has a freak kitchen accident and needs to go to the hospital. Here are her tips on getting emergency medical care in Luxembourg.

I think I am about to enter fun withdrawal. The last month has been a bit insane, in an awesome but crazy busy way. My husband, Nick, and I have been happy to host several guests. First up was a college friend of mine who I dragged all over Luxembourg, out to Trier and Cochem, to Champagne and then off to Paris. The day after I left her in Paris to catch her flight home, my aunt, uncle and cousin arrived and were given the grand tour of the Grand Duchy. The day they left to go to France, I left for Frankfurt to catch a flight to the US for the weekend to attend a friend's wedding. I returned home, a little jet lagged and happily exhausted from my friend's beautiful wedding and a terrific weekend of catching up with old friends, ready to see my husband who I feel like I've only seen briefly in passing for the last two weeks.

So, naturally, not long after Nick returned home from work, I gashed my left hand while trying to open a jar of olive tapenade with a bread knife. (Dumb idea, I know...I often have a tendency to learn things the hard way.)

I had never cut myself that deep before and I was pretty sure that it was too deep to heal on its own under a Band-Aid, so I told Nick I thought we should go to the hospital. I keep emergency numbers on a post-it in a kitchen cabinet, but when we reached for it, it felt a bit silly to call an ambulance for a cut hand. After all, I was in pain but not in any kind of mortal danger. So, we called a taxi instead.

I'm interrupting this post to give a quick thank you to Colux Taxis for arriving in less than three minutes to take me to the hospital. I've added them to our emergency numbers post-it, and you should keep their number in your files too: (+352) 48 22 33.

Our taxi driver booked it to the ZithaKlinik and we checked in. In the US, prior to receiving medical treatment, it is typical that a patient must fill out several forms asking for insurance information (most people have private, non-government insurance in the US, so each patient has a different type and level of coverage), information about past medical problems, allergies, current medications, family medical history, etc. At ZithaKlinik, the reception desk asked only for my national social security card and a payment of EUR 2.50. That was it. No ridiculous paperwork. A nurse bandaged my hand and sent me to join Nick, who had already settled in the waiting room.

The waiting room was the strangest I had ever been in. It was eerily silent at first but that may have just been because Nick and I were new people who had just walked in; shortly after, the low murmurs among waiting patients and their families began to crescendo into full blown cheerful chatter so loud that at times it was difficult to hear the nurse calling for patients. An older couple that had arrived just before us ran into a good friend. Other patients exchanged notes in Luxembourgish or French about what ailed them and how long they had been waiting. The televisions silently broadcasted news headlines and a recent cycling competition. If the chairs had been a little more comfortable and if the wait hadn't lasted so long, the experience would have almost been downright pleasant.

Five hours after arriving at the ER, a little before 3am, I was finally stitched up. (I thought I might only need one or two stitches, but I left with five!) The doctor was very apologetic about the wait when she arrived, telling me that it was uncommon for them to be so busy, and that the constant barrage of patients had lasted all day long.

A nurse bandaged my stitched up hand and scheduled an appointment for two weeks from now to have the stitches removed, then Nick and I were on our way to the taxi stand near the clinic to catch a cab home. I had received a bill – which was so much smaller than I anticipated – but I didn't even have to pay that night; I am to transfer the money from our bank account as soon as I can, then send in proof of payment in order to get reimbursed by the government.

So, the adventure continues. We have more friends arriving this weekend and it should be terrific...as long as our friends don't mind cooking their own dinner. I'm staying away from knives for a while.

Working the System
Just in case you need medical support while you're living in Luxembourg, here are a few things to know.

Emergency numbers
Dial 112 for all medical emergencies (people and pets). Dial 113 for police. Dial 44 22 44 for the fire department. Click here for a more extensive list of emergency numbers, in addition to useful medical phrases in French.

Social Security Card
If you live here, you must have one of these in order to be treated. If you've recently relocated to Luxembourg, your relocation company or your employer should be able to tell you how to obtain one of these. Important to note: this card is good for medical treatment in Luxembourg and throughout the EU. Be sure to check the reverse side of your card, though, because there is an expiration date; if the card is 'expired' you can still get treatment in Luxembourg but may not be able to while abroad in other EU countries.

If your card is set to expire soon (which it probably is), you can easily request a new card (it's free) by filling out the form at this link, which is in French but translates perfectly to English with the Google Translate toolbar application. Just enter your social security number and that's it, they'll mail you a new card within two weeks.

Doctor visits
Expiration date circled in yellow.In Luxembourg, the health plan allows you to see any doctor, dentist, or specialist. Just call and make an appointment. You will receive a bill from the doctor after your consultation and will probably be asked to pay on the spot; see 'medical reimbursement' below for instructions on getting your refund.

The doctor you visit may or may not accept credit/debit cards, so have some cash on hand if you can, just in case. If you're short on cash, though, I'm sure they will let you run to a cash machine or pay via bank transfer later.

English-speaking doctors
The American Embassy keeps a list of English-speaking doctors at this link. Note that this is not a referral or a recommendation of any doctor on the list, only a list of those that are known to the Embassy to speak English.

Prescriptions
You'll need a prescription for pretty much any kind of drug, including things as benign as allergy medicine (for my fellow seasonal allergy sufferers). You can get this from any doctor and take the prescription to any pharmacy in the country to have filled. Prescriptions are already heavily subsidized by the government when you purchase them, so you will not need to submit for reimbursement for these.

24-hour care
There is always one hospital and one pharmacy available for 24 hour care. The emergency dispatcher at emergency number 112 will of course know where to take you; if you plan to drive or call a taxi, you can also find out what hospital is open for care by calling 112. All of the material I have indicates that this number is an emergency number and also a number to call for medical information (e.g. which veterinary hospital is open all night, what pharmacy is on call that night, etc.).

To see today's list of pharmacies open overnight, follow this link. The list is updated daily and appears beneath a map that indicates where pharmacies are located. The page is in French but translates fast with the Google Translate toolbar.

Medical reimbursement
After you've paid for your doctor, hospital or clinic visit, just send a cover letter indicating your name, social security number and bank transfer information to the Caisse Nationale de la Santé (CNS) and they will process your reimbursement. It's not a full reimbursement, but they cover a very large percentage. Just be sure to keep a backup copy of your receipts, just in case.

Not sure what to write in your cover letter? I created a downloadable template that you can use at this link.  To download, click "file" then "download as" and choose your preferred file type. Just replace the yellow highlighted text on this template with your own, print and send it in with your receipts attached. My version is in English and French (thanks, Google Translate!), which I included because the government officially recognizes only French and German - though I'm sure you'd be fine with an English-only cover letter. It's only the receipts and your bank transfer information that they will really need in order to process payment. And they are fast; after submitting my first claim, the reimbursement appeared in our bank account less than two weeks later.

Your cover letter and receipts can be sent to the address below. You don't even need to use a postage stamp. Really, it's true: you don't need a stamp. I confirmed this with the post office twice before sending in my first claim in an unstamped envelope, and I received my reimbursement just fine.

Reprinted with permission of Luxemblog.

LuxembloggerJessica is an American femme au foyer living in Luxembourg, where every day is a new adventure (or misadventure). And she's capturing it all on her blog, Luxemblog. Check out her blog or find her on Twitter, @Luxemblog, to learn from her experiences...and from her mistakes!

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