NEWS

Hospital fee to be passed on to smokers

The government has decided to scrap a controversial 25-euro fee for public hospitals, Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis said Tuesday.

Georgiadis said the fee, which came into effect on January 1, would instead be passed on to tobacco product prices, which are expected to go up by 5 cents. An amendment was to be tabled in Parliament late Tuesday.

The price hike is expected to generate some 40 million euros in revenues, in line with government targets.

The decision was announced following talks Tuesday with MPs from junior coalition partner PASOK, who had voiced strong reservations about the measures.

“The Health Ministry said from the very begining that it would abolish the 25-euro fee if a fiscal equivalent were found,” Georgiadis said after the talks.

The news prompted a reaction from representatives of Greece’s tobacco industry.

“It was the worst possible development for the sector as the decision will send the illicit tobacco trade through the roof,” said Nikos Nechamas, chairman of the Hellenic Association of European Tobacco Companies.

The Health Ministry came under fire last week after an uninsured cancer patient died on Thursday because he had been unable to find a public hospital that would treat him free of charge. Georgiadis said there was no reason for the man not to be treated and suggested that his case was being exploited for “political reasons."

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