The Estonian Health Insurance Fund (EHIF), or Haigekassa, is changing its name to Tervisekassa to reflect a greater focus on health promotion and disease prevention. The bill will be introduced in the Riigikogu on Tuesday, and the new name will go into effect on April 1.
The name of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund (EHIF) was already under consideration when the health insurance system was set up in 1990-1991.
At that time, it was decided to continue using the Health Insurance Fund's historical name, Haigekassa, which literally translates from Estonian as "illness fund." Since then, the institution has been expanding its responsibilities and new name, Tervisekassa, or "health fund," much better reflects its activities.
"The agency has been assigned public health responsibilities such as the procurement of medications for the prevention and control of communicable diseases, the procurement of vaccines, vaccination compensation and the organization of family medicine. Due to this shift of responsibilities, it is appropriate to rename the public legal entity," the department chief at the EHIF Evelin Trink told ERR on Wednesday.
More than a name change
Trink said that the name change also represents a fundamental shift in the entire healthcare system from disease treatment to disease prevention.
"Today's health insurance will not be able to pay for lifestyle-related diseases in the future, and one way to avoid this is to engage in health promotion," she said.
"Already today, about 80 percent of the health insurance budget is spent on treating lifestyle-related diseases, and the current financing system will lead to a situation in 2026 where the tax income for health insurance would be less than the cost, i.e. the demand for health services," she said.
"The responsibility for our health does not rest with the doctor or the health insurance company, but with each of us. We have the freedom to consume, eat and work, but we also have the responsibility to do so in a way that will keep us healthy for decades," she continued.
"A number of significant new developments are driving the rising costs, such as expanded cancer screening, the development of school health, health screening for children and their mothers, chronic disease surveillance, free flu vaccination for at-risk groups, a comprehensive care pathway, eHealth solutions, and more. At the Health Insurance Fund, we are interested in how people can stay in good health for longer periods of time, feel well and need less help from doctors," said Trink.
Name change has been in the works for many years
Wednesday, department chief Evelin Trink told ERR that the political decision has been a long time coming.
The Health Insurance Fund began advocating for a name change long ago. In August of 2018, former Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) and Minister of Health and Labor Riina Sikkut (SDE) gave their approval for the change.
The EHIF acquired the domain tervisekassa.ee for €2,690 in November 2020. The public relations and health promotion department of the Health Insurance Fund has been using the domain and calling the institution by its new name for several years.
"Legally, perhaps, we are still Haigekassa, but in terms of our content, operations and identity, we have been Tervisekassa for years," she said.
The name change was estimated to cost a maximum of €48,880 in 2018, however the actual cost will be significantly lower.
"We have dealt with the change gradually and we now anticipate that the costs will be below that amount. For example, the Health Insurance Fund has purchased souvenirs bearing the new name, but only when the souvenirs were out of stock; so additional costs have been made for this purpose. We also updated the stylebook, but this was just a routine update. We are now replacing the light boxes in our offices and are ready to implement the new Health Insurance Fund color scheme on our website, tervisekassa.ee. There are no other significant costs related with the name change, as it turns out," Trink explained.
Tuesday, the Social Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu voted to launch legislation to rename the EHIF.
According to the proposed legislation, the agency should begin using its new name on April 1.
Editor: Kristina Kersa