There is little confidence in IKA medical services

What is bizarre about the MRB findings is not the degree of displeasure, but the fact that 14 percent of people are actually satisfied. A closer look at the results would probably show that most of the displeased respondents were insured with the Social Security Foundation (IKA), while the others are more likely to be the employees of public utility companies, banks, media organizations or the civil service, whose healthcare funds are more «upmarket.» As with all aspects of Greek reality, there are wide discrepancies in standards. Some funds are characterized by long delays and hassles, others are islands of dignified calm that seem to have nothing to do with the average conditions in Greece. Typical of the latter are the bank employees’ and the journalists’ funds but even these are not completely up to new requirements. Moreover, there are generally no provisions for preventive medicine, the concept of a «family doctor,» or dental care. «As far as public health is concerned, there is complete confusion within ESY and IKA, for although they are theoretically aimed at 75 percent of the population, only a very small percentage of people actually use their services. «At IKA, this percentage is only 12-15 percent, and more and more economic immigrants are using them,» said N. Lygidakis, director of the IKA Children’s Dental Clinic. Speaking at the 33rd Conference on Children’s Dental Care, he said that standards of the 39 healthcare providers are extremely unequal, and that in 1999 they spent an average of just 10,000 drachmas per person. The greatest problem is with IKA, which serves 5.5 million people, as well as 890,000 pensioners. Although much has changed in recent years, IKA remains a nightmare for whoever is unfortunate enough to have to resort to its services, from obtaining a pension (which could take up to two years in the case of successive insurance policies) to seeking a high standard of health service, a factor not unrelated to the fees demanded (legally) by medical staff both at IKA and the ESY, as well as the administrative and bureaucratic obstacles, not only regarding access to primary healthcare but to the affiliated state hospitals. Medical care at IKA and to a lesser degree the other funds has such a poor reputation that the private sector has become a major drain on family budgets. Many people insured with IKA have no faith in its services and don’t even bother using their clinics. A survey by the national federation of social security fund staff showed that one out of every four euros earned is spent on healthcare, above and beyond compulsory contributions and taxes.