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Social security debts threaten standstill in health sector

By Penny Bouloutza

The provision of primary medical care and medicines to about 9 million people is at risk of collapse due to the accumulated debts of the National Organization for the Provision of Health Services (EOPPY), as the government has reneged on its promise to settle all arrears to private suppliers of the old insurance funds that now comprise EOPPY by the end of March, totalling 1.7 billion euros.

Pharmacists last week decided to indefinitely suspend dispensing medicines on credit, protesting the accumulation of debts of 540 million euros for prescriptions up to March. The insured now have to pay themselves for the cost of their medicines, and claim it from their social insurance funds.

EOPPY-contracted private doctors are reported to be planning similar action, claiming they are owed 620 million euros for services they provided up to the end of March.

“Doctors have been paid only in some districts for services rendered in the first two months of 2012. Diagnostic labs fear they may have to pull their shutters down as they have no money to pay operating costs. Of the 4,500 doctors that initially signed contracts with EOPPY, 500 have withdrawn because they are not being paid,” EOPPY doctors’ president Giorgos Eleftheriou said. EOPPY also owes 800 million euros to private clinics, while the debts of its constituent parts to public hospitals until December 31, 2011, totalled 1.8 billion euros.

Pharmacists in Attica are to decide on their next moves on Wednesday, depending on the progress of piecemeal payment of arrears until the elections of June 17 for medicines dispensed in March and April, as promised by the caretaker government.

ekathimerini.com , Sunday May 27, 2012 (23:05)  
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