Disputed fee for preferential treatment at doctors to be re-introduced

Patients unwilling to wait at the doctor’s office may be able to make appointments starting next year, for a fee of €50.

Waiting rooms are full of patients, illustrative stock photoWaiting rooms are full of patients, illustrative stock photo (Source: Sme)

The fees paid by patients unwilling to wait at the doctors’ for long hours once ranged between €5 to €15 before former health minister Viliam Čislák (of the second government of Prime Minister Robert Fico) eliminated the service altogether.

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Now, Health Minister Tomáš Drucker (Smer nominee) is trying, once again, to re-introduce the appointment plan – but only during the afternoon, after surgery hours, for a much higher amount. Doctors will be obliged to treat paying patients within 15 work-days of their booking. Moreover, patients will have to pay €50 out of their own pockets for preferential examination, the Sme daily reported.

Read also: Patients may pay more at emergency wards Read more 

“Fifty euros is the maximum payment for a visit according to the price list,” Drucker said, as quoted by Sme. “But it is a voluntary basis; people do not have any reason to pay a single euro.”

He already tried to push for new fees for examination earlier this year, but doctors bluntly rejected his proposal. Now the ruling coalition is returning to this proposal with changed wording submitted by MP Juraj Blanár (Smer).

A part of the parliamentary opposition dislikes provisions in the draft amendment to the Health-Care Act tabled by the ruling coalition MP Tibor Baštrnák (Most-Híd) at parliamentary health-care committee’s meeting.

What's in the proposal

A doctor can designate up to 30 percent of their office hours for paying patients, according to the proposal. In the current chaos and decadence of our health-care system, when patients wait for months for an appointment with a specialist, this is the cheapest way to solve the problem, MP for the opposition Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) movement and shadow Health Minister Marek Krajčí told the SITA newswire.

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“If the governance in health care continues in this way, in the future patients can expect free parking on overfilled parking lots, but high-quality health care will be available only to the rich,” Krajčí added, as quoted by SITA

Read also: Furore erupts over doctors’ fees Read more 

Back in 2005, the possibility of paying for an appointment with a doctor was first introduced. At the time, this service cost €10 at most, and doctors could allocate a maximum of one-quarter of their office hours for such patients, Miroslav Beblavý, independent MP and leader of the emerging political party Spolu – Občianska Demokracia (Together – Civic Democracy) said on November 22.

“This possibility existed for 10 years before parliament cancelled it at the proposal of Smer in 2015, arguing that such fees are anti-social and unjust,” he continued, as quoted by SITA. “Ten-euro fees were considered anti-social and unjust and now, 50-euro fees for basically the same service are proposed, but in a way that will not even deliver the desired result.”

The proposal, resembling the one criticised by doctors at the beginning of 2017, will be discussed at the next parliamentary session, on November 2, the TASR newswire wrote.

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