In recognition of the fact that hundreds of thousands of Greeks have lost access to free or state-subsidized healthcare due to the economic crisis, the government will next year grant 100,000 people passes that will allow them to be treated at public hospitals without any charge.
Sources said on Wednesday that the yearlong “tickets” will be given to the long-term unemployed and members of families that live beneath the poverty line. Most Greeks lose their access to free healthcare when their 12-month unemployment benefit expires. The jobless rate in Greece is currently just over 25 percent.
The Health Ministry is due to announce the details of the scheme in the coming days but it appears that at least initially it will span two years, with 100,000 people receiving the healthcare passes each year.
The ministry is also due to announce a program that will provide home healthcare for patients with chronic illnesses and uninsured Greeks who need outpatient treatment after surgery. The schemes are to be partly financed by European Union structural funds.
Health Minister Andreas Lykourentzos said on Wednesday that he wants to improve the rate of absorption of EU funds in the health sector. He revealed that so far Greece has taken up less than 7 percent of the funds made available by the EU but the government is aiming to raise this to 48 percent by the end of 2014.
The poor absorption rate means that the next package of structural funding for healthcare from the EU will be reduced by about 60 million euros, from 328 million to 270 million.