Vulnerable groups left out, even though entitled to care

Immigrants and others working without social security coverage comprise the two largest categories of those excluded from public healthcare. A survey by the state’s Social Security Foundation’s union (POSE-IKA-ETAM) found that one in six workers had no social security coverage – 7.9 percent of the population. According to the most conservative estimate by the National Statistics Service (NSS), the percentage of uninsured among the working population stands at 5.5 percent, the long-term unemployed at 2.8 percent. Taken together with illegal immigrants (4.5 percent of the population), this means that at least 11.8 percent of the population have no access to free medical care. Both Gypsies (4 percent of the population) and ethnic Greeks from abroad (5 percent), two categories to which the state provides full free medical care (for which they are issued a health booklet), do not use these services, either because they are unaware of their rights or because they do not trust the healthcare system. According to a survey by the Black Sea Center for Information and Support, the main reasons why Gypsies (Roma) don’t visit outpatient departments is because of the fear and suspicion they feel regarding health services and the unfriendly reception they receive from hospital staff. Depending on the particular community, the percentage of Gypsy children who are vaccinated ranges from 0 to 70 percent. Similar reasons keep ethnic Greeks (about 200,000 from the former USSR and 150,000 from Albania) away from hospitals. More startling is the fact that, according to the NSS, 6 percent of the rest of the population share the reservations and fears of these groups. People who have every right to free medical care do not seek medical attention when they are in need as they feel they will not be dealt with fairly by the bureaucracy, or because of their inability to pass money under the table. That comes to about 12.8 percent who are not entitled to health care and another 15 percent who are afraid to seek it.