State accused of owing large amount to hospitals

Photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech Radio

The state, via health insurance companies, owes hundreds of millions of crowns to hospitals. That’s according to a petition from representatives of medical unions, the hospitals association and other organisations, who have made a fresh call on Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to take action.

Photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech Radio
A group of organisations in the health field last month called on Mr. Babiš to draw on reserves in the coffers of health insurers in order to resolve the situation.

The PM and the Ministry of Health said at the time that the appeal was nothing but a false alarm.

The minister of health, Adam Vojtěch, said the state had ploughed record sums into the healthcare system in recent years.

However, this has not placated the government’s critics.

The president of the Association of Bohemian and Moravian Hospitals, Eduard Sohlich, said the fact that the state, through health insurers, owed so much money to hospitals had placed them in a critical situation.

Mr. Sohlich said hospitals were unable to maintain current levels of care and would be forced to reduce the quality of their services.

Prime Minister Babiš said there was no danger of the health system collapsing. He said the health insurers were not the state that did not belong to the state.

The largest insurer in the Czech Republic, VZP, which has six million clients, is state run. There are six other health insurance companies.

Mr. Babiš said many state hospitals were doing better financially now than they were last year. He said problems could occur in individual cases due to poor management.

Since 2016 the country’s hospitals have received over CZK 38 billion in reimbursements for care provided, the PM said.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech Radio
A spokesperson for VZP said that it had not owed any money to health care providers beyond agreed due dates for a number of years.

The organisations that wrote the new petition say the insurers have CZK 60 million in their accounts and called on them to pour CZK 25 billion into reimbursements for care.

The Ministry of Health counters the appeal is aimed at extracting more money. What’s more, it has been made outside the framework of the usual consultation procedure, it said.

Minister Vojtěch argues that the insurers need to hold onto their reserves in case of a possible economic downturn. They do not currently possess the level of reserves they had prior to the last financial crisis, he said in a statement.

The president of the Union of Patients, Luboš Olejár, said patients in the Czech regions were already receiving demonstrably inferior care to those in major cities.

The Ministry of Health’s sluggishness and inactivity were making a bad situation in the regions even worse, he said.