Putting health in private hands

Greeks spent a grand total of more than 4 billion euros on private healthcare last year, not including hospital treatment, confirming that this form of medical care is taking up an increasingly large chunk of the average family budget. Research carried out by Athens University’s Center for Health Services Management and Evaluation (CHESME) found that Greek families spend just under two-thirds of their healthcare budget on private medical services. Four in 10 respondents said that they had visited a private doctor last year but only 16 percent of those asked were admitted to a private hospital during the same period. CHESME said that the majority of those who sought treatment at a private hospital either had private health insurance or were members of a family whose main breadwinner was well educated or had a high level of income. The same study found that very few Greeks who use private medical facilities attempt to reclaim some of the money they have spent from their social security funds. Of some 7 billion euros spent on healthcare in Greece last year, social security funds returned only 450 million euros to patients. CHESME found that people from rural areas or with a low level of education were less likely to try to reclaim money from their insurance fund. Many Greeks who use private healthcare are not aware of their rights with regard to reclaiming some of the money they spend or choose to forgo any attempt because it is perceived as too bureaucratic. Private healthcare in Greece has been growing steadily over the last three decades but there has been a sharper increase over the last few years. CHESME’s survey suggested that most Greeks who use private doctors do so because they believe the state health system does not provide the same quality of care as the private sector. State doctors are also seen as overworked and state hospitals overcrowded and unable to meet patients’ needs.