Greek private health spending nearly on a par with public outlay

Greece tops the list of the old 15-member European Union in terms of private spending on health, according to a study released in April by the Federation of Greek Industries-sponsored Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE). Total spending in the sector reached 14.8 billion euros – 7.8 billion euros of public money and 7 billion private, according to the study, «The Development of Expenditure on Health and Medicines in Greece and EU Countries.» Pharmaceuticals cost 2.4 billion euros, of which 1.8 billion was covered by the government. The study used the latest available data of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for 2002 in order to compare Greek spending on health and medicines with the rest of the EU countries. Greek health spending in that year represented 9.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), against an EU average of 9.1 percent. But in Greece private outlays on health represented 47.1 percent of the total, compared to an average of 22.8 percent in the 15-member EU. «Private expenditure as a percentage of total spending on health in Greece is more than double the EU-15 average,» the study said. In the US, which probably has the most privatized healthcare system in the world, public and private expenditure on health account for 44.9 and 55.1 percent of the total respectively. Of the total outlay on health, Greece spent 16.3 percent on pharmaceutical products prescribed to outpatients. This ranks Greece fourth among EU members, which have an average of 17.3 percent. In contrast to spending on health, public spending on medicine was comparatively higher than in the rest of the EU – 73.3 percent against 66.9 percent. Finally, per capita expenditure on medicines in Greece was 194 euros in 2002, ranking the country in last position among EU members, which average 389 euros per capita. France, Italy and Germany topped the table, with 519, 412 and 404 euros per capita respectively. Greece’s low spending on medicines is attributed to their comparatively low price.