ECONOMY

IKA owed more than 8 billion euros, half by the government

If the Social Security Foundation (IKA) debtors paid the money they owed to Greece’s largest pension fund, then we would not need to talk about ways to finance the social security system. Debts to IKA total about 8 billion euros. Roughly half is owed by individuals, private firms and municipalities. The other half is owed by the state, which has not provided the full funding required by a law passed in 1992. The sum owed to IKA would be enough to pay its 879,000 pensioners for two years. About 1.9 million employees are insured with IKA. Adding the pensioners, that makes for a significant portion of the country’s social security system. It is also a small health service of its own, with units found even in the remotest areas. IKA employs 8,500 doctors, compared to 9,000 for the National Health Service. Its offices and clinics are visited by 220,000 people daily. This makes it almost a ministry by itself, comparable with the importance of the ministries of Health and Employment. It is hard to believe, but this vast system lacked auditing, either of its procurements or its prescriptions for medicines. This has led to enormous overspending. Just consider two cases which surfaced recently: A doctor prescribed a drug to his patient 285 times within a three-month period. Another prescribed an expensive test – to be administered at a private clinic – to a heart-disease patient nine times within a month. The computerization of the tax system has revealed other ways IKA has been drained of money. During the latest crosschecking of data, 1,398 enterprises that pay their taxes regularly do not pay any social security contributions to IKA. It also appears that IKA had been supplied with faulty monitoring systems for checking procurements to its clinics. IKA’s management has announced that it was going to take three contractors who provided the systems to court. New tenders for the procurement of automated monitoring systems will take place immediately. The lack of proper monitoring systems is to blame for the 10.8 percent rise in the cost of medicines when the increase in the amount ordered was less than 2 percent, for example. It is also true that many doctors found the lack of proper monitoring lucrative. Hence their opposition to moves by the management to control prescriptions more tightly. A situation like that has caused IKA President Yiannis Vartholomaios to take a closer look at spending within the organization.