Greeks digging deep to pay for private doctors

A Greek family spends, on average, 1,300 euros a year on private healthcare, according to a report released yesterday as the Inner Cabinet met to discuss how best to stop money from being wasted at state hospitals. The study, conducted by Athens University, suggests that most of the 1,300 euros is spent on dental care and consultative medicine. It also indicates that three in 10 urban residents go to a private doctor if they have a health problem. Four in 10 make use of the medical coverage provided by their social insurance fund, while two in 10 head straight for the outpatient departments of state hospitals. According to the report, the proportion of the family healthcare budget being spent on private doctors and dentists in Greece has been steadily increasing. The average Greek family gives almost half of the money it spends on healthcare to private practitioners or clinics. It is estimated that Greeks now spend a total of more than 4 billion euros a year on non-hospital health services. Almost 2 billion euros is spent on private dental care. Less than 7 percent of this expenditure is covered by social insurance. The report was presented ahead of a medical conference that begins in Athens today that will examine the funding difficulties faced by the national health system. This subject was also at the heart of discussions during an Inner Cabinet meeting yesterday. The government has recently introduced tighter financial checks on hospitals in a bid to prevent unnecessary spending. It is also aiming to table a bill that would transfer the monitoring of hospital purse strings to a joint-ministerial committee. Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said the draft law was almost ready to be submitted to Parliament. He also denied that there is any difference of opinion between him and Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis over hospital debts and the government’s spending on the health system. Members of the Communist Party-affiliated union PAME clashed with riot police outside Maximos Mansion as the Inner Cabinet met inside. The workers were protesting pension reforms and officers used force to prevent them from blocking the road.