The hundreds of thousands of Cypriots waiting for an organised, properly-managed national healthcare insurance plan are set to wait even longer after more delays in the scheme tabled with the House of Representatives on October 20th.
The Finance Ministry has demanded another survey of the state’s finances because of the scheme’s 4.5 percent contribution from taxpayer’s funds, compared to the 2.5 percent from the employer and 2.9 percent from the employee, reports Phileleftheros. This is surprising because the plan has already been approved by the Cabinet of Ministers, including Finance Minister Haris Georgiades. Bottom line, the state’s funds are contributed by taxpayers – the same taxpayers who need reliable and quality healthcare – so this latest delay on a rational, nation-wide healthcare system is disturbing. The plan is based on recommendations from Troika experts, but has not moved forward in spite of the desperate need.
At 46.5 percent, public funding in Cyprus’ healthcare sector is dramatically lower than other EU countries, where it is a top priority and the dominant spending category, according to the latest Eurostat survey (2012). Meanwhile, the new national healthcare insurance reforms have been pending in the House of Representatives for over a month. These difficult circumstances pose a considerable health risk to patients who urgently need care, organised treatment and follow-up plans.
According to Eurostat, public spending on healthcare in other European countries ranges from 54 percent in Bulgaria to over 80 percent in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Cypriots spend 47 percent of their household income on private healthcare, the highest in the EU. Compare that to the less-than 10 percent spent by households in France or the Netherlands, where public healthcare is good quality and reliable. Private health insurance is costly, and insurance companies pay out just 10 percent of healthcare spending. In the business sector, many companies can’t afford to offer health insurance as a benefit, meaning that there are uninsured and therefore vulnerable people.
No matter how much households spend on private care, the public hospitals are packed with patients, and the overwhelmed medical staff do what they can with what little they have. There are many holes in the healthcare sector, from patient advisers who can brief people about their options, to a dedicated oncology hospital, enough ambulances, or adequate staffing and capacity building in each hospital. Long waits for MRI and CT scan results and paperwork shuffling mean that patients are kept in limbo even in life-threatening situations. These are serious, entrenched oversights that cost people their health and sometimes their lives.
Until the state makes the healthcare sector its highest priority along with other core government sectors, circumstances will just get worse.
The population here is small, and each individual’s life and health is important to their families and to the economy. It’s time the elected officials and civil servants take the matter in hand and deal with it as if it were their own loved ones who are going to benefit from the national health scheme. As if it’s their mothers, fathers, daughters and sons, brothers and sisters who will be treated in one of the state hospitals. As if taxpayer’s money should be reinvested in infrastructure that will benefit them long term. They need to deal with it and pass the new laws providing comprehensive, quality healthcare for everyone yesterday, for the sake of present and future generations.