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Nicolaescu slammed over proposal to stop private hospital financing

Deputy Premier Dragnea calls health minister’s plan to scrap public financing of private hospitals ‘uninspired’, noting it has not been discussed in the Government. PM Ponta defends Nicolaescu saying his decision is not restricting anyone’s right to medical care.

Two days after making the public announcement on the fact that private hospitals would no longer receive money from the state budget and that public hospitals would, in that way, get 10 per cent more funding, Health Minister Eugen Nicolaescu  explained again yesterday his proposal. He has been criticised by various Government representatives for his decision. Deputy Prime Minister Liviu Dragnea said yesterday the measures presented by Health Minister Eugen Nicolaescu, including the abrogation of public financing of private hospitals, had not been discussed in the Government and added that the minister had made an ‘uninspired’ statement. PM Victor Ponta in turn said he was aware of the discussion on hospital financing and noted that a political decision would be considered. The PM also pointed out that ‘everybody has the right to receive medical care in the public system’. ‘The private insurance also goes to the private system, so we need to find a solution. We are also discussing this with the IMF as part of the broader debate on the health reform, how we spend the money which is not a lot in the health system,’ Victor Ponta said. Asked if the decision announced by the health minister was not perhaps restricting a person’s right to healthcare, the PM said it didn’t. ‘In what way? Everybody has the right to receive medical care in the public system. You know that the right to healthcare and education in the public system are universal rights’.The explanation Health Minister Eugen Nicolaescu offered yesterday for stopping the funding of private hospitals is that 90 per cent of Romanians are poor, the social health insurance being compulsory and representing a kind of tax. ‘Insurance is compulsory and, as long as it is compulsory, it is a kind of tax. Why would we misrepresent what has been said? What we have here is a compulsory tax. If the health insurance had been optional, it would have been all private money and you could have done whatever you liked with it. But, as long as it is a social health insurance, the money is public money and the Government and the Health Ministry are obliged to implement these public policies using public funds,’ Nicolaescu said. Following the announcement that private hospitals will no longer receive public funding, various people have been claiming in the mass media that the measure Minister Nicolaescu has taken is meant to impoverish the middle class even further. In response, Nicolaescu said yesterday that those who are going to lose their privileges as a result of the measure are trying to conduct media campaigns. ‘I cannot understand why you are agitating yourselves trying to see other things in the realities that we have. There are probably many people behind this and I happen to know who they are, who are trying to campaign fearing they may lose privileges. Who wants to set up a private business is free to do that with his/her own money, not with the state’s money. When you want to start a private business you work out a business plan and tailor it. If you make money it means you are a good businessperson. If you lose money, it means you are a poor business person,’ the minister said. According to ‘Gandul’ daily, the sum that goes to private hospitals in Bucharest, for example, is RON 35 M. ‘Gandul’ also presents the positions of the representatives of some of the best-known private healthcare networks in Bucharest. Sanador Hospital owner Florin Andronescu says ‘the health minister may not decide to which medical service establishments Romanians who pay their health insurance can or cannot go. That’s discrimination. I have paid my contribution and so has my employer, therefore I have the right to go where I choose. The money should be following me as a patient, not government policies.’ On the other hand, Regina Maria private healthcare network CEO Fady Chreih says his business is not going to be affected by not getting any more funding from the public budget because such financing was anyway less than 5 per cent. Medlife Chairman Mihai Marcu says hospitals in his chain receive from the National Health Insurance House (CNAS) 3.5 per cent funding. ‘Paradoxically enough, this new measure would work in our favour, as we would have no reason to change prices. We receive a very small rate as it is. We normally settle EUR 170 per case. It is not fair on my competitors and it’s anti-competitive. I have done some searching in Europe and found out that Serbia and Croatia are the only two countries with this system where private hospitals do not get financing just because they are private.’ The Coalition of Organisations of Chronic Patients in Romania (COPAC) believes a possible decision to stop CNAS financing of private hospitals would violate the patient’s right to choose the service provider. COPAC Vice President Iulian Petre says in a release issued to Mediafax on Monday that patients have a right to choose the medical service provider they wish, the form of ownership bearing absolutely no importance as long as medical services are equivalent. COPAC calls on Health Ministry officials to engage in dialogue with the representatives of patients’ associations before implementing such measures that are crucial to patients.

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