Social Democratic Party (SDE) chairman and former Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski said on Thursday that after it was announced that the changes would cost the state nearly €900,000, he is against the renaming of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund (EUIF) and the Estonian Health Insurance Fund (EHIF).
"The renaming of the EUIF and EHIF is something that I have in principle considered reasonable," Ossinovski wrote on social media. "The scope of both agencies' activities really is much broader today than their historical names suggest. But now that this has been estimated to cost nearly €1 million, I must clearly state: no way.
"In a situation where we don't have enough money to ensure timely medical care for everyone, replacing signs on buildings is certainly the last thing we should be dealing with," he added.
ERR reported on Wednesday that the EHIF (Haigekassa) and the EUIF (Töötukassa) both want to change their name next year — to the Health Fund (Tervisekassa) and Employment Fund (Töökassa), respectively. According to the Ministry of Social Affairs, the name changes are to cost an estimated €865,000.
Prime Minister and Centre Party chairman Jüri Ratas said at Thursday's government press conference that the Estonian government had not discussed the name changes, but that he found this price tag to be too high.
Minister: Change names as inexpensively as possible
According to Minister of Health and Labour Riina Sikkut (SDE), who is currently in Vienna for a meeting of EU labour ministers, the two agencies need to change their names as inexpensively as possible, and focus more on their substantive work.
She noted that the name changes are just one aspect of changes being made to the agencies' functions, but that she understood the public outrage the announced costs caused.
"We are discussing with the supervisory boards how to move forward," Sikkut said, adding that the expenses involved in changing the names of the two agencies cannot swell to ridiculous totals. Of greater importance, she continued, was discussing what kind of organisations the people want the EUIF and EHIF to be in the future.
The minister supported the direction being taken by the management of the two agencies. "Both organisations have strong board chairpersons who plan to support people throughout their lifetimes with regard to career choices and their health," she said.
Sikkut is requesting that the heads of the EUIF and the EHIF review all name change-related costs, cover these costs under current operating expenses, and keep the public informed regarding reforms being conducted within both agencies.
Editor: Aili Vahtla