Battle brews over drugs spending ceilings for elderly and children

Photo: Kristýna Maková

A new battle over drugs and health spending appears to be brewing with the Ministry of Health pushing for a lower limit to the ceiling that pensioners should pay for prescription medicines. And there is some backing for a limit also to be put on the drugs bills for families with children.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
The Ministry of Health has drawn up plans for the annual limits on drugs spending by pensioners to be brought down dramatically. At the moment the yearly ceiling on payments out of their own pockets are 2,000 crowns for those aged 70 and over and of 2,500 crowns for those aged between 65 and 70.

Heath minister Svatopluk Němeček of the leading government party, the Social Democrats, wants those limits brought down to 1,000 crowns for those pensioners aged 70 and over and trimmed to 2,000 crowns for the younger age group. Those paying above these totals would be reimbursed by health insurers. The cost to state coffers from such moves is estimated at around 300 million crowns a year.

But the smallest government party, the Christian Democrats, who stress family values as one of their main political and electoral platforms would rather see low ceilings for drugs placed at the other end of the age range to support children.

Marian Jurečka is deputy chairman of the party and had this to say about the proposal.

Marian Jurečka, photo: Filip Jandourek
“I think that families with children who perhaps have some form of chronic illness are facing much bigger problems and expenses than the elderly.”

The final format of the proposal setting a new drugs spending ceiling for the old, young, or both should be hammered out in the Autumn.

But both variations look like they will face fierce resistance from Minister of Finance and ANO leader Andrej Babiš who clearly feels that these hand outs could well be moves by his government partners but political rivals in the upcoming battle in elections for regions and part of the Czech upper house, the Senate.

“We can discuss this but my first impression is that this is one of those proposals aimed at winning voters, apparently for the Social Democrat party.”

It been made pretty clear in the past that health minister Němeček and finance minister Babiš do not have the best working relationships. The finance minister usually denounces waste in the health sector when confronted by almost inevitable increased spending demands and strained services.

Andrej Babiš, photo: Filip Jandourek
The Ministry of Finance is already looking to keep the lid on public spending with a preliminary public deficit of 60 billion crowns agreed for next year. The health ministry is already faced by mounting bills to pay higher wages to nurses and doctors following a campaign by health unions highlighting staff shortages and cancelled services. Some of the extra cash should come from lower administrative costs and more effective purchasing but the wages bill is always the biggest single spending factor in the sector.