Huge private funds fuel Greek healthcare system

BRUSSELS – A report on healthcare in the European Union, released Wednesday by the European Commission, finds that Greece has the highest percentage of private expenditure for healthcare among all 15 member states, clearly depicting the predicaments faced by its national healthcare system. According to the findings of the report, released in the framework of an initiative by Greek Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou, 43 percent of annual expenditures for healthcare are derived from various private funds and insurance companies, and only 56.3 percent from state expenditure – the lowest among the 15 EU countries. The only other EU state with similar statistics is Portugal, where, however, the State is credited with covering 66.9 percent of the funds spent annually for its citizens’ healthcare, some 10 percent higher than that of Greece. The Netherlands trail closely behind with 68.5 percent, while in the rest of the EU countries, state funds cover over 70 percent of annual healthcare costs, and in nine of those, the state’s share surpasses 75 percent. The best state-funded healthcare systems are found in Luxembourg, where the State covers as much as 92.9 percent of healthcare expenditures; in Britain with 83.3 percent; and in Sweden and Denmark with statistics surpassing the 80-percent mark. On the whole, Greece ranks fourth of all EU member states in the percentage it spends of its gross domestic product (GDP) for its healthcare systems. At the same time, however, the report shows that private funding – meaning, the populace – must pay a disproportionately higher out-of-pocket share for healthcare than in other EU countries. On Wednesday, the European Commission adopted the proposal tabled by Diamantopoulou and proposed that EU governments institute an annual exchange of data and policies from member countries, in an effort to upgrade healthcare services for the elderly. Furthermore, the European Commission proposed three common objectives for member states: The achievement of universal access to healthcare and care for senior citizens; the highest possible quality care; and the financial viability of healthcare systems in the long run. These proposed common objectives are the result of an analysis by the Commission which found that national healthcare systems, while very different in design, delivery and funding, are confronted with similar core challenges both today and in the future. These common challenges are identified by the European Commission as the increasing longevity of the populace, changes in traditional family structures, the rapid developments in medical technologies and the rising costs, as well as the new demands that EU citizens have of healthcare systems as consumers. Commenting on the proposals, Diamantopoulou declared that access for all to decent healthcare and care for the elderly is part of our government’s contract with EU citizens. In order to deliver, we must plan ahead. And we must identify people’s changing needs and act upon them. Wednesday’s proposal by the European Commission is in response to the conclusions of the Lisbon European Council in March 2000, which called for the reform of the social protection systems in order to be able to continue to provide good quality health services. It will be further outlined in a progress report on guidelines for senior citizen healthcare that is to be reviewed at the Spring 2002 European Council.

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