Minister presents second wave of reforms in health care

Tomas Julinek, photo: CTK

Czechs are only just getting used to the idea of doctor’s fees being introduced as of January, but the health ministry has not stopped there: on Wednesday the health minister, Tomas Julinek, presented the next step: a package of even more far-reaching reforms to significantly change the health sector.

Tomas Julinek,  photo: CTK
January 1st will see the first wave of reforms in health care, which some Czechs will need time to accept: new payments for medication as well as for visits to the doctor’s, the emergency room, and the hospital. But that’s only a start: the country’s health minister, Tomas Julinek, has now presented a second series of proposals, which he has suggested will further revolutionise the health sector. On Wednesday he presented seven bills to change how health care in the Czech Republic will function, including how insurance companies will operate in the future. Mr Julinek presented the bills, complete in a gift-wrapped package, expressing the opinion that - if passed - the reforms will be “immune” to future changes in government.

“The package is resistant to shifts in political focus along the Left and Right.”

What changes can Czechs expect? The most notable include the option for patients to pay extra for additional services or better products. One example given: surgery in which a patient will be able to pay more, for example, for higher quality treatment or products, such as a replacement artificial joint. Under the proposal, insurance companies will pay for the basic care, patients will pay the difference. Deputy health minister Pavel Hobron stresses the choice of treatment will be up to the patients themselves:

“Individuals will be able to decide freely whether or not to pay extra for services and receive certain benefits from insurance companies.”

The Health Ministry says the latest reforms will not only guarantee the availability of quality health care, they will for the first time also set deadlines within which treatment must be provided.

But the legislation also has its sticking points: especially controversial is a plan for health insurance companies to transform to joint-stock companies. That is being criticized not only by the opposition but also by some members of the government, making clear that much debate in parliament lies ahead. Health Minister Julinek has said he will present the proposals to the lower house next year. He would ultimately like to see them passed in mid-2008, so that the legislation could come into effect January 1st 2009.