Health care funding system needs to change, say doctors  ({{commentsTotal}})

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

The Estonian Medical Association said on Friday that they agree with the findings of the report by the National Audit Office, published in November, that postponing the decisions related to health care funding have led to degradation of the whole health care system.

The Medical Association called for the government and the Parliament to take necessary steps to improve people's health and ensure the sustainability of a functioning health care system, ETV's "Aktuaalne Kaamera" reported.

There are roughly 80,000 who lack health insurance and are only entitled to emergency care, long waiting lists to see specialists, and serious complications caused by lack of dental care, said the Association. By not spending the money now, the authorities are knowingly creating much larger, preventable costs for the future, it said.

"All the changes and the small amount of extra funds allocated to health care are merely to put our larger fires. Very little thought has gone into how to make conceptual changes," said Katrin Rehemaa, general secretary of the Estonian Medical Association.

She added that the discussion has to proceed from asking why the average age in Estonia is much lower than in most other European countries and how people can be encouraged to lead healthier lives.

The aging population also creates extra pressures on the health care system. "The funding principles need to be reconsidered. A heath care system funded solely by social tax is not sustainable," Rehemaa said.

It has been known for years that the health care budget needs a boost, but the state is unwilling to use the accumulated reserves to cover the impending deficit. At the same time, the health care costs are going up, effecting the availability of services.

Liisi Uder, who headed the audit of the health care system, said that the Estonian Health Insurance Fund is too conservative, even stagnant.

"In so many cases we have observed how they fail to think on the national level when allocating funds. They cannot even think within the insurance budget if giving more money to one area could help to reduce costs in another," Uder said.

The National Audit Office has proposed a number of ways to cut costs, including a hospital reform that would allow for a better concentration of certain services, and increasing funding on the local level, so that the specialists would not have to the jobs that the general practitioners are meant for and capable of.

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