Cool Welcome for Left’s Proposal to End Top-up Health Insurance

By , 29 Aug 2019, 11:30 AM Politics
Cool Welcome for Left’s Proposal to End Top-up Health Insurance Flickr - Vic CC-by-2.0

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STA, 28 August 2019 - Trade unions were alone in welcoming on Wednesday the Left's (Levica) proposal for the abolition of top-up health insurance, while coalition parties, insurers and employers mostly argued against an "ad hoc" and "solo" proposal for a step estimated to be worth half a billion euro.

The centre-left coalition parties - the PM's Marjan Šarec List (SMC) has not yet commented - mostly agreed the current top-up insurance scheme needed to be abolished, but they took issue with their tentative opposition partner failing to consult them before unveiling the proposal and with the Left's threats it will not back the forthcoming government budgets if it is ignored.

SocDems deputy group head Matjaž Han argued healthcare was too important to be involved in any horse trading. He did note that insurers had done themselves a poor favour by raising top-up insurance premiums - which are basically obligatory - in recent months and announced the coalition would probably already discuss the matter ahead of the next government session.

The Modern Centre Party's (SMC) Igor Zorčič said such a proposal would need to have been drawn up in cooperation with the Health Ministry and that it was very telling the Left first presented it to the press.

The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) also spoke of a "solo manoeuvre" and argued a legislative solution to such a major issue should not come from a single party but from the government. SAB is on the other hand also losing patience with the Health Ministry, saying it had also failed to present concrete proposals on how to shorten the waiting times in healthcare.

The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) was surprised to be finding out about such a major topic from the media. "Even more striking is that the Left is interfering with the work of the ministry, which is working hard on this issue," the party wrote, saying the government expected to have the ministry's proposal on the table next June.

The Left proposes that top-up insurance be replaced with higher employer contributions and a new capital gains tax in order to offset the estimated half a billion euro top-up insurance currently injects into the healthcare system.

The idea was rejected categorically by employer representatives, with Igor Knez of the Slovenian Business Club saying the proposal did not bode well for Slovenians, who were also facing an additional contribution for long-term care.

He said employers had been given nothing by way of tax relief and that this also applied to highly trained staff that Slovenia would have a hard time keeping or attracting.

Knez added the proposal did nothing to address key questions in healthcare, a view echoed by the secretary general of the Trade Crafts and Small Business Employers' Association Igor Antauer, who said the issue of top-up health insurance would need to resolved in a package with a new act on healthcare and health insurance.

Meanwhile, health insurers said they still needed to study the proposal, while they warned that any rushed measures could destabilise the financing of health services.

Vzajemna, the mutual health insurer which has been managing the bulk of top-up insurance paid in, also argued that all stakeholders would need be included in the adoption of a solution and that "healthcare, which is having problems, will not improve" as a result of the Left's proposal.

Insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav said the Left's approach was not sustainable, since "gradually the amount of funds collected would decrease as a result of a decline in the active working population and an increase in the number of pensioners, while the ageing population will also entail increasing healthcare needs".

Positive reactions to the Left's proposal only came from trade unions, but Lučka Böhm of the ZSSS confederation pointed to bad past experience which such proposals.

She welcomed the Left's proposal to have the state chip in when the health care purse runs out of money, noting "the ageing population in itself was reason enough for finding additional sources of healthcare funding".

"In any case, the abolition of top-up insurance should not lead to poorer access to health services and to irregular payments to providers," Böhm added, while also raising the issue of job security for people currently working with top-up insurance.

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