Healthcare arrears spark debate

Newsroom 01/08/2011 | 14:51

President Traian Basescu has called for payment arrears for free and subsidized medicine to be halted until the drug purchase system, in hospitals and via pharmacies, is regulated. This has led to several pharmacies across the country no longer providing subsidized medication and family doctors charging patients for every examination. Basescu added that the issue had to be discussed by the National Health Insurance Agency (Casa Nationala de Asigurari de Sanatate, CNAS) and the Ministry of Health, and that if agreement is not reached it could result in some resignations.

“We have serious problems with the procurement of drugs. Perhaps the drug suppliers’ lobby is so powerful, that no one has managed to put an end to this ‘joy’ of arrears from drugs,” said Basescu, alluding to a recent EC report.
On Monday, speaking on a show on TVR, the national television channel, the Romanian president declared that in the last trimester of 2010, the government had diverted money that had been allocated to other domains and paid RON 2.5 billion to meet its healthcare debts. Since then, however, the debt has risen to RON 2 billion, which, he added, is mostly due to cost control issues. This is why, added the president, investment money will no longer go to the National Health Insurance Agency. This will not, however, affect certain healthcare expenditure, such as cancer patients’ treatment.

Basescu urged the National Health Insurance Agency to get a better grasp of medication costs. “The auctions that were held for drug purchases should become more visible, the IT system within every pharmacy should be checked, and the recipients of subsidized prescriptions should be examined every once in a while to gauge the level of his or her ailment, which is the responsibility of family doctors. This can all be done through the electronic verification of state expenditure,” he added.
If the National Health Insurance Agency and the Ministry of Health do not come to an agreement, one of the heads of the two bodies might have to resign, said Basescu, adding that he had
already discussed this with the prime minister. This will take place right after members of Parliament return from vacation.

The president admitted that people undergoing medical treatment could be inconvenienced by the stand-off. “I’m not saying that patients will not be affected by this decision, but we cannot keep taking money from funds allocated to creating new jobs and pouring them into firms which, besides paying VAT, just give the money to their parent companies,” Basescu said.
RON 300 million will be allocated to Romanian hospitals, which will be distributed depending on priorities, it has been announced.
Corina Dumitrescu

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