VšZP fined for Auntie Anka

The state-run health insurer will have to pay penalties for its contracts with dozens of companies, including some owned by the aunt of the insurer’s former chief.

Richard Raši, former health minister, wrote a letter to VšZP to keep the contracts.Richard Raši, former health minister, wrote a letter to VšZP to keep the contracts. (Source: SME)

The Health Care Surveillance Authority (ÚDZS) confirmed the €15,000 fine for the state-run health insurer Všeobecná Zdravotná Poisťovňa (VšZP) over flaws it found in the process of closing contracts with the providers of health care and pharmaceutical services.

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The authority inspected dozens of contracts, including those that the insurer closed with companies owned by the Anna Sučková, also known as Auntie Anka, the aunt of former VšZP head Marcel Forai.

Contracts with his aunt cost Forai his position last September. He defended them as standard, but after much publicity, he resigned. All told, MP Miroslav Beblavý who broke the scandal, pointed to seven companies in which Sučková was active and with which VšZP concluded contracts under Forai.

Some other contracts with companies connected with Sučková are valid until 2019, some have already expired, while still others must be prolonged due to the law, as they offer pharmaceutical services.

Surveillance authority confirms flaws

ÚDZS looked at how the insurer contracted and paid 40 providers between January 2005 and June 2015. This concerned about 50 contracts, each of which contained about 19 appendices, spokeswoman Andrea Pivarčiová confirmed as reported by the TASR newswire. Companies included Sučková’s Welix, Medical Cassovia, Bravia, Brilance, and the Endotop, she added.

The insurer appealed against the fine, but the ÚDZS confirmed the sanction of €15,000.

The VšZP already confirmed that they would pay the fine within the deadline. Director General Miroslav Kocan was convening the damage commission that should decide about further proceeding and find out whether a particular person or persons will be made responsible for the fine, the insurer’s spokeswoman Petra Balážová told TASR.

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Allegations about the murky business between the state-run health insurer Všeobecná Zdravotná Poisťovňa (VšZP) and the companies owned by Forai's aunt, have also been acknowledged by the Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ).

Several of the contracts that VšZP concluded with the companies of Sučková were disadvantageous for the insurer, the NKÚ stated in its report following an extraordinary audit in VšZP.

Read also: NKÚ confirms auntie Anka flaws Read more 


VšZP cancels, then prolongs

Even though the scandal around Auntie Anka and her companies pushed Forai out of the top post in the state-run insurer, it does not seem to be over as of yet.

Recently, Petr Kučera, the head of the Union for the Help and Support for Health, wrote a letter to the VšZP asking them not to cancel the contracts with the Sučková-related companies, the Sme daily reported. Kučera is currently suspected of having defrauded more €18,000 during 2014 and 2015 when he served as the head of the Association for the Protection of Patients’ Rights, one of the biggest patient organisations in Slovakia. The association’s current president filed a criminal complaint against him on July 29, Sme reported. Kučera refuses the allegations

The insurer also received another similar letter asking for the contracts with companies formerly associated with Sučková not to be cancelled, from Richard Raši, former health minister and currently the mayor of Košice.

The new VšZP Director General Miroslav Kočan heard their appeals and prolonged the contracts of two of the seven companies that previously featured Sučková, despite the fact that his predecessor Miroslav Vaďura who replaced Forai in his post after the scandal broke out, cancelled them as of June 30, Sme reported.

Read also: VšZP prolonged contracts with two firms of Forai’s aunt Read more 

“The new management has considered all arguments,” Balážová said, referring to “motions from clients, as well as from the Union of Help and Support for Health” who feared that from July 1 on, the accessibility of some specialised doctors, especially in the Košice and Prešov regions, could deteriorate.

Balážová said that the new management changed its original decision “with patients’ wellbeing in mind; there is nothing more to it”.

Business goes on

Beblavý pointed to the fact that five out of the seven companies linked to Auntie Anka still have contracts with VšZP, while these five companies account for 95 percent of the combined sales of the seven firms.

“During 2015, their incomes increased by another third to €9.3 million, six times higher than in 2011,” Beblavý stated at a press conference on July 28, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

Read also: Business of auntie Anka continues Read more 

“Nonetheless, the new insurer leadership, nominated by [Health Minister Tomáš] Drucker, has come to rescue the business success of companies in the Auntie Anka case,” said Beblavý, as quoted by TASR.

New VšZP director general Kočan noted that this only concerns two companies, Welix and SPV 40 who got their contracts prolonged by six months, until the end of this year. Both companies are active in radiology and radio-diagnostics, and their ownership structure features Kosice-based businessmen close to the ruling Smer, Sme wrote.

The insurer also maintains its contract until 2019 with the Medimas company that provides endocrinology services. Two other Auntie Anka companies, Medical Partners and Bravia, had to have their contracts prolonged because those are pharmacies and the insurer is required by law to have contracts with all the pharmacies, Sme reported.

Paška’s neighbour could lose business

The Welix company features the name of Dušan Mach, the neighbour of former parliament’s speaker and prominent Smer politician Pavol Paška who stepped down over another major scandal in health care.

Mach is involved in several health care companies, and also runs one of the two pharmacies in the teaching hospital in Košice. The other one belongs to the Dr. Max group that belongs to the Penta investment group.

Mach’s pharmacy might lose its business following a new measure introduced by Drucker that orders all hospitals and other health care facilities that fall under the ministry to cancel their contracts with private pharmacies doing business inside their facilities.

Read also: Health Minister pushes private pharmacies from hospitals Read more 

The idea is that state-run hospitals should run their own pharmacies to earn money.

Mach’s Košice pharmacy has a rental contract for an indefinite time. Additionally, Sme writes, the pharmacy also serves as a teaching pharmacy and runs a laboratory where individual medicines for children with oncologic illnesses are prepared.

Penta financial group also has a 45-percent share in Petit Press, the co-owner of The Slovak Spectator.

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