BUSINESS

State insurance system seen struggling in future, survey finds

EVGENIA TZORTZI

TAGS: Business, Health, Survey

Despite a significant increase in social security contributions, consecutive reforms of the state insurance system and dramatic cuts to pensions, some 84 percent of Greeks continue to doubt the sustainability of the social insurance system.

This overwhelming skepticism was among the findings of a survey conducted by market research firm MRB Hellas for the Hellenic Association of Insurance Companies (EAEE), which also found that one in two respondents (49 percent) have more faith in private insurance companies to make better use of their contributions. In contrast, just 13 percent of those questioned said they believe their money is better utilized when it is managed by the state, while 28 percent said they didn't believe there is any difference between the two systems.

The study, titled “Opinions and Perceptions of the Insurance Market,” points to the prevalent belief among 85 percent of respondents that state pensions will be slashed further. Private insurance and specifically the need for health coverage ranked third in the category of issues troubling the average Greek household, after providing their children with a decent education and covering the cost of basic necessities.

The survey was conducted via telephone interview on a representative sample of 1,000 people, comprising men and women aged from 25 to 54 years, across the country. Skepticism regarding the sustainability of the public insurance system is prevalent, the researchers found: 86 percent feel the public insurance system's future is not secure; 78 percent see a further deterioration in the already dire finances of state social security funds; 84 percent are afraid that that state insurers will not be able to pay out adequate pensions in the future; 89 percent foresee a further drop in state pensions; 91 percent say their pension will not be sufficient to cover the needs that will arise once they retire; 62 percent are unhappy with the public health services they receive and seven in 10 respondents recognize the need for ensuring better healthcare services via private insurance.

At a press conference held yesterday to present the findings of the study, EAEE President Dimitris Mazarakis stressed the importance of its conclusions in drafting a new strategy for the insurance market so that private insurance services “respond more effectively to citizens' needs.”

While the survey further demonstrates a variety of reasons why citizens would choose a specific private insurance product, the majority of respondents agree that private insurance is a necessity. Asked what they think when considering the term “private insurance,” the majority of respondents picked the options “provides for me and my family.” This was followed in ranking by the terms “necessary evil,” “protection,” “necessity,” “responsibility/looking out for the future,” “luxury,” “investment” and “waste of money.”

Assessing the findings of the study, Mazarakis stressed that “citizens acknowledge that private insurance can be a reliable complementary solution and increasingly entrust insurance companies with their healthcare and pensions.”

“The objective is to build bridges of trust, so that fewer people see private insurance as a necessary evil,” he said, adding that significant inroads have been made in this direction thanks to more stringent supervisory mechanisms that implement European standards and ensure a high level of reliability in the sector.

Disappointment with public health services

Healthcare is among the top items on the priorities list of the overwhelming majority of citizens and this survey found it to be the top reason why respondents would elect to take out private insurance in the near future.

Specifically, 44 percent of the MRB survey's 1,000 respondents said that it is likely or possible that they will take out some form of private health insurance at some point in the near future, while only slightly less conceded to the possibility of life insurance (40 percent) and a pension plan (39 percent).

The public health system is viewed as very unsatisfactory or slightly satisfactory by 62 percent of respondents, while 66 percent expressed their disappointment and said they believe that services will be reduced in the future. Only 26 percent of respondents said that public health services will improve in the future.

Seven in 10 respondents said they would like to ensure access to better healthcare by taking out some form of private insurance.

It is worth noting that the answers given by the respondents are not based on their ability to pay for a private insurance program, as the survey only assesses beliefs and intentions. As such, realization of their expectations would depend on an improvement in their personal finances and in the country's economy.

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