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2020 brings wide range of social welfare changes

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center).
Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center). Source: ERR

Several changes to laws and regulations have taken effect, reorganizing the work of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Baltic News Service reports, as well as providing new services, or boosting the funding of existing ones. These range from changes to the treatment of unemployment, child and disability benefits, through to the banning of menthol cigarettes – a European Union initiative – as well as the planned implementation of pharmacy reforms.

Medicines and medical devices covered by health insurance fund

The list of medicines compensated by the Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa) has been increased to include 14 new medications available at hospitals, plus five sold in pharmacies. This expands options for patients and makes medicines more affordable for hundreds of people, ministry spokespersons say.

Over 100 medical devices not covered previously can also now be obtained with Haigekassa help, BNS reports.

Other changes include:

  • Pharmacy reform: Pharmacy reform to be completed on April 1, which should separate retail and wholesale of pharmaceuticals from each other, with the requirement applied that dispensing chemists alone are allowed to own and run a pharmacy. This reform has been subject of long debate and controversy, however. As at the end of last year, there were 215 partly or wholly pharmacist- owned outlets in Estonia, of which 181 met all the requirements introduced with the pharmacy reform, BNS reports.
  • Child welfare: Additional requirements for foster care for children, including requirements for activity licenses relevant qualifications of those running the home. The new maximum size of a foster family or similar is now six children. 
  • Child protection workers are required to obtain social worker status, with specialization in child protection, by 2022 at the latest for those already working in the field. 
  • A child center is to open in eastern Estonia with €120,000 from the state budget earmarked, to help children who have been sexually abused or there are suspicions of such, where a child protection worker, a psychologist, a doctor, a police officer and other specialists working with children will be working together. At similar facilities in Tallinn and Tartu, 245 children received help during 2018, BNS reports.
  • Minimum wage and other benefits: The minimum wage is now €584 a month, or €3.48 per hour, which should also raise the size of other payouts such as parental allowance, child leave pay and child care leave pay. This rise may affect benefits paid by municipalities, as well as municipal services where these are pegged to the minimum wage.
  • Unemployment allowance and unemployment insurance benefits have increased by €6.10, to €189.1 for a calendar month of 31 days, in the case of unemployment allowance and by €9 a day, meaning €279 for a calendar month of 31 days, in the case of unemployment insurance benefits.
  • As reported on ERR News, state pensions will rise by €45 in Estonia from April 1.
  • Paternity leave will rise from 10 days to 30 days, from July 1.
  • Parental allowance will become more flexible, as from July 1, parents will have the possibility to treat their parental allowance as child care leave either in one portion or in several portions, until the child reaches three years of age.
  • Child disability allowances have risen to €138 a month for children with moderate disability, to 161 euros for children with severe disability and to €241 for children with profound disability. The budget has risen by €9 million, to €22.3 million. There are some 13,000 children registered disabled in Estonia according to BNS.
  • Care homes: Expanded general care home nursing, which will also be treated as a separate entity.
  • Hospice or end-of-life service in hospitals to be financed in hospitals where a necessary team and necessary conditions are available.
  • Care homes require activity licenses are issued by the Social Insurance Board (Sotsiaalkindlustusamet), which had issued such licenses to 150 care homes across Estonia as of Friday, according to BNS.
  • Victim assistance: €100,000 in additional funding is to be directed to victim assistance in 2020, making the total €2.5 million for state victim assistance, violence prevention and women's shelter services during the year. 
  • Goodbye to menthol cigarettes: Menthol flavored cigarettes will disappear from the Estonian market from May 20, in line with EU regulations (other flavored cigarettes were banned by the EU in 2016).

As reported on ERR News, staff working on a family doctor's telephone helpline will be able to view callers' medical data and to offer personalized advice, under the new regulations.

Minister of Social Affairs is Tanel Kiik (Centre).

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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