Sales of private health insurance have grown rapidly in Estonia over recent years. Although the sector has initially struggled to make profits, some private insurance companies are looking for additional tax incentives.
One of the top health clinics in Estonia is owned by the University of Tartu. Despite this, the university decided this spring, that it would offer its employees the opportunity to join Confido's private health insurance scheme. According to Kstina Vallimäe, the university's director of administration, there were several reasons for this decision.
"One is to provide support to (help) maintain employees' abilities to work. The second is certainly to reassure employees that, in the case of unexpected health problems, they will not be faced with long waiting lists for treatment or a lack of financial capacity to pay for private treatment. And third, I believe this will be of additional interest to our expatriate employees, as they have had problems accessing quality English-language services in Tartu," Vallimäe said.
85 employees opted for private health insurances. However, according to Estonian Minister of Health Riina Sikkut (SDE), the offer of these kinds of contracts also raises questions.
"It may sound attractive, but really, a university that has its own clinic, a top Estonian health institution, should perhaps give more consideration to the benefits, or benefits packages, that are available to its staff," said Sikkut.
"Wouldn't reimbursement for sporting activities, which can be done on a private tax-free basis, be more beneficial to people's health than a private healthcare contract?" Sikkut said.
According to Sikkut, greater involvement of private money can only help to solve healthcare related issues if there are also enough healthcare workers. However, they remain in short supply.
According to Confido director Edvard Gardner, the notion that private healthcare is only available to the wealthy is no longer true.
"It started with successful IT and financial companies, but today (private insurance) is also bought by companies in the manufacturing and service sectors," he said.
For a number years, tax exemptions for private health insurance premiums of up to €400 have been in place. However, according to Mart Jesse, head of the Estonian Insurance Association, this amount is now outdated and could be made higher. Nevertheless, the use of private health insurance in Estonia has doubled in recent years.
"While last year the total amount of premiums received was €14 million, two years ago the figure was just €7 million. The number of people insured last year was 48,385 and 28,000 at the end of 2021, as far as I can remember," said Jesse.
"Premium income was €14.4 million, with payouts at €13.5 million alone, plus the operating costs and fees paid to intermediaries," Jesse said.
Editor: Michael Cole