Greek ministers have spent the week hastily seeking further spending cuts to present to the Troika of creditors on Friday. Amongst the purported cuts is a proposal to cap health costs covered by social security funds to €1,500.
The Greek press has reported that in an effort to reduce spending on health care, one proposal on the table is to limit spending on patients through social security funds to €1,500 per year. According to Ekathimerini the suggestion was included in plans drawn "up by the Center of Planning and Economic Research (KEPE)."
If the proposal is implemented it will deal a heavy blow to the already beleaguered Greek health service. Currently medical costs are heavily subsidized through social security funds. However, if medical coverage is curtailed it would mean patients must pay for any treatment above €1,500 at their own expense, a huge cost to those requiring hospitalization or expensive cancer treatment.
Health ministry officials have denied the various reports that limiting spending is on the cards, but the Ministry of Health is under great pressure to introduce further stringent cuts. Money Week reported Greece is already set to cut a further €1 billion in 2012, following cuts of $2.5 billion over the last two years which equate to a 13 percent reduction.
Healthcare in Greece is already at crisis point with hospitals running out of vital supplies and drugs. Digital Journal reported cancer patients are having to source their own prescriptions as pharmacies fail to stock vital drugs due to the government not providing funds to pay for them.
Furthermore, hospitals are under increased pressure as austerity has resulted in many people abandoning the private for public sector. Additional strain is placed on hospitals due to the needs of illegal immigrants who have not contributed towards social security funds.
For decades the government turned a blind eye to culture of brown envelopes which pervaded the Greek health system, with many doctors and surgeons requiring bribes to provide timely treatment to those in need. One benefit of Greece's program of austerity is that the practice appears to have ceased as there is no longer enough cash to stuff the envelopes.
Denials by health officials that spending may be capped cannot be taken at face value as the record of the current government shows that already pre-election promises have been broken. If the health spending cap is introduced it will be anther nail in Greece's coffin.