Free healthcare costing Greeks dearly, report says

By Stelios Bouras

Spending on Greece?s healthcare is among the highest in OECD nations, according to a study which points that a poorly organised and corrupt hospital system is forcing Greeks into a fast growing private healthcare business.

A recent report prepared by Alpha Bank, cited OECD figures showing that Greece?s health sector costs the country 9.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) annually versus an average nine percent among the 29 countries.

This means that Greeks pay about 25 billion euros every year for healthcare, assuming an annual GDP of 250 billion euros.

Just less than two thirds of this amount is paid for by the taxpayer through public healthcare while households pitch in with the balance in a bid to enjoy ?decent? medical coverage, the report said.

?Government and obligatory social security funds promise complete and fair coverage of health care for everyone for ?free?. However, the (public) system?s abilities...are very limited creating massive waiting lines,? the report said.

Despite hikes in Greece's health spending between 2000 to 2008 being among the highest of all OECD countries, this has not been matched by growing life expectancy rates, the report added.

Turning to the hospital system, corruption has grown due to poorly run operations and an improper organisation structure with about one in five Greeks admitting to having paid a bribe in order to receive medical treatment at a state hospital.

These problems have contributed to growth in the private healthcare industry which provides crucial services but also enjoys the benefit of not having any competition, the report added.