A report published by the Foresight Center on Wednesday has said a funding crisis may occur in Estonian healthcare in the next five years.
Head of the Foresight Center Tea Danilov said that with the current funding and services, the annual deficit of the Health Insurance Fund will reach €900 million by 2035.
According to the authors of the report, the increase in costs would be slowed down by the improvement of the health behavior of the Estonian population and making health care financing more performance-based.
"The people of Estonia must assume a greater role in taking care of their health and preventing health damage. To this end, the state should develop people's 'health literacy' and data-based prevention," Danilov said.
She added that special attention should also be paid to people on lower incomes in order to prevent further worsening of health inequalities.
Magnus Piirits, expert at the Foresight Center, said that in an aging society, an increase in healthcare costs is inevitable, while improving health behavior would help to curb the steady increase in costs.
"We are third in the European Union in terms of obesity - every fifth person in Estonia is overweight. The biggest problem is the risks associated with nutrition," Piirits said, adding that half of the deaths in Estonia occur namely due to risk behavior.
Praxis think tank analyst Kaupo Koppel also said that improving health behavior must be at the heart of healthcare in the future. "The effects of health behavior on public expenditure and revenue are greater than the costs of financing new services," Koppel said.
For example, in 2016, 51,300 years of life were lost due to alcohol. If the same figure had decreased by only 20 percent, to 40,000 years, the state would see a financial gain of €712 million a year. According to the report, the same potential exists in years of life lost due to overweight and obesity, as well as in mental health.
"True, this does not mean that health behavior alone can solve the emerging financial deficit in healthcare. The efficiency of our medical system is already reaching a point where additional funding is inevitably needed," Koppel said.
The Foresight Center is a think tank with the Estonian parliament; its tasks include analyzing long-term developments in society, identifying new trends and development avenues and drafting development scenarios. Operating under the chancellery of the Riigikogu, the Foresight Center bases its studies on a variety of possible developments and outlines alternative scenarios.
ERR News published more information about the report earlier this month.
Editor: Helen Wright