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31 October 2018

Hungary: health care reform could bring the end of the solidarity-based insurance system

New legislation in the area of health care insurance could lead to the end of Hungary’s existing solidarity based social security system, as the government plans to levy the costs of medical treatment of the uninsured. The media has reacted with shock to the news, while observers call the current healthcare system unreliable and chaotic both for the patients and healthcare workers.

The government plans to levy the cost of medical treatment from those whose social security is not paid by their employer as part of its policy to reduce the financial burden on the health-care sector. Employer non-contribution is a frequent problem in Hungary. In the current system, citizens only have to pay their outstanding contributions, but in the new system they will have to pay the full bill. Those without social security will therefore have to pay a substantial bill for medical care. Sources, based on data of the National Health Insurance Fund reveal that on in 20 inhabitants is short of insurance, which means that some 400,000 citizens could face serious problems. Citizens will have to check their social security number and, if there is neither an employer to pay the insurance nor an individual agreement with the tax authority, they will be confronted with huge costs. The National Health Insurance Fund will make a list for the tax authority of those treated who have a ‘red light’ next to their name.

The social security is paid for children, pensioners, those who are receiving rehabilitation contribution and for others in need by the government, at a level of contribution that is a couple of euro less than the amount one has to pay individually (approximately 22.6 euro per month). A health care expert stated that acceptance of this law will mean the end of the current solidarity based social security system. The rich easily will get out of the system as they can afford to pay for their owb healthcare, but this will certainly reduce the public funds available to be spent on treatment.

Earlier on, a spokesperson had said that the government plans to expand the range of free health services rather than to narrow them. Work is underway on separating private from public health care, with current plans including passing new legislation as well as changing the means of financing and organising the system. However, a critical assessment of the state of the health care system indicates a lack of progress. Based on its parliamentary majority, the government would have had a historical chance to come up with a crucial and necessary reform. But instead of a fundamental restructuring, healthcare just keeps drifting along. According to a survey of Eurobarometer, Hungarians value the state of the healthcare system and the standard of living as the most important issues facing them.

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