Plan for social dividend to secure healthcare for uninsured citizens

By Prokopis Hatzinikolaou and Sotiris Nikas

The government has decided to use part of the so-called social dividend – i.e. 525 million euros from Greece’s 2013 primary surplus – to provide a large proportion of uninsured citizens with healthcare coverage.

In a meeting on Monday led by Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, officials from the two ruling parties agreed on the social groups that will receive last year’s extra revenues set aside for distribution to up to 1 million Greeks. They also decided on the criteria and terms for the collection of benefits to be included in the multi-bill to be tabled this week in Parliament, which includes the measures agreed between Athens and its creditors last week. The aim is for the social dividend to be distributed by May 9.

Given that the main criterion for the identification of recipients is 2012 incomes, the government will also be examinging the details of citizens who joined the ranks of the unemployed within 2013 in a bid to make sure no one is unfairly left out.

The meeting agreed on the following distribution breakdown for the 525 million euros:

* Services that house and feed the homeless will get 20 million euros.

* Between 68,000 and 70,000 members of the military and police force will receive 35 million euros. The income limit for recipients will be 1,500-1,550 euros per month, while the one-off benefit handed out will amount to about 500 euros per person.

* Some 350,000-400,000 citizens without social security will get healthcare coverage worth a total of 20 million euros. They include the long-term unemployed who aren’t covered by any funds, uninsured senior citizens, professionals who are not working and are not covered by their fund, and professionals who are active and suffer from chronic health problems or owe money to their fund.

* Those who lost their jobs last year will collect 20 million euros.

* The remaining 430 million euros will go to vulnerable social groups, such as those on low salaries and pensions. The general income ceiling for a citizen to qualify for the one-off benefit will start at 4,000 euros per year and go up to 10,000-11,000 euros, depending on how many children the recipient has. It is estimated the handout will start from 500 euros, so that, for example, a family with two children will get 800 euros.