Forecast: Health insurance fund's budget faces €235 million deficit by 2026
A pessimistic forecast predicts that the Estonian Health Insurance Fund (EHIF) will have a deficit of €235 million in four years. By then, the majority of its reserves will be depleted.
In its financial predictions the EHIF has anticipated two scenarios, the first of which would see the fund remaining within the boundaries established by the national budget strategy and incur a deficit of €106 million by 2026. In the second scenario, the deficit would balloon to €235 million by 2026, and the reserves would be also depleted.
The EHIF forwarded to the Ministry of Finance the second of the two scenarios, with the expectation that access to treatment would stay at the same level as this year, rather than decline as in the first scenario.
This means that the EHIF budget will be in the red by €47 million in two years, €202 million in 2025, and €235 million in 2026.
In the first scenario the deficit would be less significant, reaching €106 million in 2026. There would also be a considerable reserve of over €400 million.
Pille Banhard, a member of the EHIF's board of directors in the financial sector, said that the first scenario would have stayed within the state budget strategy, but would have limited access to treatment.
"To preserve people's access to services so that waiting times do not increase any further, we need to put more resources into the system," Banhard told ERR.
Although health insurance tax contributions are growing, the deficit is growing fast as well. Banhard cited the rising cost of services, collective bargaining promising salary increases, and the ongoing pandemic and refugee crises as some of the reasons. The impact of war refugees alone on the budget is €40 million.
"Today, Estonia is home to about 53,000 war refugees, may be about half of them have health insurance, but all of them might require health care treatment or emergency medical assistance," she explained.
To maintain the availability of care from the state budget until 2024, an additional allocation of €131 million in the coming year and €123 million in the following year has been approved.
"For the years 2025 and 2026, this additional money is not allocated or planned for us at the moment. This has a direct impact on us," Banhard continued.
This means that while the Health Insurance Fund will still have nearly €500 million in reserve next year, it will only have €14 million by 2026.
"When we run out of additional funding, we will cover the shortfall with reserves from previous years. This is certainly not sustainable," Banhard said.
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Editor: Kristina Kersa