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ECONOMIC BRIEFS

Health Ministry wants higher state insurance payments

In order to resolve the critical situation in health care financing, the Health Ministry has requested that next year the state increase the premiums it pays for compulsory health insurance. In 1999, the state paid 283 Slovak crowns ($7.50) per month per person for its insurees (children, the retired, soldiers, women on maternity leave, etc.). For next year, the ministry requests this figure be increased to 400 crowns monthly per insured person, an increase that would drain an additional 4.52 billion crowns from the state budget compared with 1999.

The ministry's goal is to achieve a balanced budget by the end of 2002. Health Minister Tibor Šagát says that this will require private sector contributions as well as state financing. The minister also plans to restructure the network of medical facilities and to economize on the provision of healthcare. This would mean transfering some health care services from hospitals to the offices of general practitioners and other doctors, shortening terms of hospitalization, reducing the number of beds in hospitals and so on.

The ministry has already started the process. The first step was the introduction of closed financing, whereby the healthcare sector gets money according to the number of registered patients. In the past, under open financing, state and private medical facilities simply invoiced the state for health care provided.

Regional projects for optimizing the hospital network are also being carried out. So far, 470 hospital beds have been canceled nationwide. The ministry plans for a further 10% reduction in beds in 2000, which would bring savings of 1.1 billion crowns.

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