There are between 1.9 and 2.4 million Greeks, or roughly 20 percent of the total population, without social insurance, Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis said on Wednesday as he announced plans to provide these people with free medicines.
Georgiadis said that the government would know the exact number in three weeks time, once a census of those without any cover is completed. The census is being carried out as part of the Atlas program, similar to the Helios scheme which led to the actual number of pensioners being discovered.
The health minister said that it would be his “biggest challenge” to find the funds necessary to guarantee free access to drugs for those who are left without social security, in many cases due to becoming unemployed.
“We want to find a way in which the state can directly cover an obligation which we recognize the state has,” he said. “And this certainly has to happen in a way in which we have clear control over how much is spent.”
Georgiadis pointed out that the government had recently allocated 13 million euros obtained from defense contract kickbacks that were paid back into public coffers so Greeks without health coverage could undergo operations.
The only way for uninsured Greeks to currently get their hands on medicines apart from buying the drugs is to be given them at free surgeries run by municipalities or a medicine bank run by the Athens Medical Association and the Federation of Greek Pharmaceutical Companies.