THE SLOVAK cabinet interrupted the debate on Health Minister Ivan Valentovič's proposals on May 16.
Valentovič has been tasked with improving the situation of the heavily indebted health sector. One of his suggestions was to introduce a single state-run health insurance company, though he knows Smer's ruling coalition partners oppose the idea. Valentovič believes the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and the Slovak National Party still might have a change of heart. The ruling coalition partners will continue negotiations on the plan until May 23, when the entire Slovak cabinet resumes discussions on the issue. It is also expected final measures will be adopted that day.
According to the plan, policyholders and the assets of private health insurers acquired through public health insurance funds would be shifted to a single public health insurance company. The minister rejected the notion that this is nationalization. "Slovak legislation and I do not recognize the term 'nationalization'," he said, assuring the media that if the coalition partners agreed to the idea, the legislative mechanisms used to implement it would be fully in line with the constitution.
Prime Minister Robert Fico believes introducing a system with a single health insurance company is a condition for fulfilling the intent of the Slovak Constitution, which grants citizens the right to free healthcare. The proposed system would guarantee, the PM says, that no old woman would have to keep a five-thousand-crown banknote under her pillow in case of a medical emergency. He also claimed that the previous government largely infringed on this constitutional right.
But civic associations and think-tanks, such as the Health Policy Institute (HPI), strongly oppose monopolization. HPI believes that political meddling in the healthcare sector contradicts the part of the government's election manifesto that obliges it to "provide for a legal environment in which all heath insurers have equal conditions regardless of their legal form and which prevents insurance companies from administrating their policyholders' finances inefficiently."
The Association of Health Insurance Companies (ZZP) regards the Valentovič proposal as disadvantageous to patients and the healthcare sector alike. "A system with one health insurance company will harm patients as well as healthcare providers, who will lose freedom of choice and will be at the mercy of one health insurance company," ZZP's president told the TASR
21. May 2007 at 0:00