Levica Ends Partnership With Govt Over Bid to Scrap Top-Up Health Insurance

By , 07 Nov 2019, 11:05 AM Politics
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STA, 6 November 2019 - The opposition Left (Levica) declared on Wednesday that its partnership with the minority government was over after the ruling coalition made its support for a key Left-sponsored bill conditional on adoption of their amendments. Despite the turn, PM Marjan Šarec and the coalition are adamant to serve out their term.

"The final domino has fallen, we find the government has unequivocally broken off cooperation and pulled out from the agreement with us," the Left's leader Luka Mesec said after debate on the party's bill to scrap top-up health insurance was suspended with the coalition announcing several amendments.

The coalition "ran over" the Left-sponsored bill through its amendments, said Mesec, adding that as of this point the agreement with the government was no longer binding on the Left, which from now on was fully in opposition.

However, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said it was not the government, but rather the Left which was quitting the partnership. He was determined to complete his term in office, but said this would not be possible without compromising.

The Left would like to abolish top-up health insurance collected by private insurance companies and needed for virtually all health services by folding it into mandatory health contributions, at different rates, depending on the individual's income.

The coalition meanwhile proposes lump sum payments for the time being, which would be set at EUR 29 a month at first, and could be adjusted once a year. It would be paid by those who currently pay for mandatory health insurance.

The parliamentary Health Committee suspended debate on the Left-sponsored bill, after coalition parties tabled several relevant amendments the adoption of which they made conditional on their support for the bill.

The session was suspended so that other parties and the parliamentary legal service could take their position on the amendments, but the Left said that it had been urging the government for a month already to table amendments. The legal service also raised the question of the admissibility of such amendments.

The amendments are doing nothing to do away with top-up insurance, but "merely fold it into a new gift wrap, and the coalition are only washing their hands", Mesec told reporters.

He said the point of scrapping top-up insurance was to introduce solidarity-based contributions, while the coalition's amendments "preserve the same contribution for everyone regardless of their income".

"They had more than two months to reach an agreement with us, but instead they bring today, at the start of the bill's reading ... amendments that we haven't heard of before. Even the legal service finds the bill is being changed to a point it is in fact a new bill," said Mesec.

Apart from the latest bill, Mesec also listed his party's grievances about the reform of the personal income tax which the party says favours the rich, end of bonuses for social benefit recipients who work and the budget, which he described as neither social nor development-oriented.

He said the Left was not trying to bring down the Marjan Šarec government. "We've merely ascertained that the government has resigned from the agreement it struck with the Left, which is clear in all the mentioned cases."

The Left would like to continue to cooperate with the government, but "the problem is that we've been ignored for several months". Mesec would not answer concretely when asked whether the party might now bring a motion of no confidence.

Šarec, who was commenting on the row on before Mesec made his comments, repeated that he did not want to break off cooperation with the Left, but he regretted "ultimatum politics".

"I'd expect some more patience on the part of the Left because we have implemented many projects together ... However, not all their projects are feasible in the way they imagine them to be.

"Politics is a matter of compromise, in particular in a minority government," Šarec said, noting that several majority governments before had attempted to end top-up insurance but failed. He said such legislation could be passed only if everyone made an effort for a compromise.

Without formal support from the Left, Šarec said the government had to seek support for each project and law outside the coalition anyway, and he expects other parties to support the government proposals they agree with, so he "I don't see need to sign agreements" with some other opposition party.

The opposition National Party (SNS) announced before it would provide the needed support to pass the budget, but Šarec would not say his government depended on the party's votes, "we depend on all MPs' votes".

Šarec said asking him whether he would serve out his term, was "like asking me whether I'll be run over by a car ... my plan is for the government to complete its term, I see no reason why it shouldn't ... It depends on those who are fond of calling press conferences and shaking the boat one way or the other."

Šarec's LMŠ party regretted the Left's decision to end partnership, and so did the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), while the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) maintained that the Left had not shown genuine willingness to cooperate anyway.

LMŠ deputy group leader Brane Golubović does not think the decision would change much. "The government will still be stable and the coalition would continue stable," he said, expecting cooperation on some projects to continue with the Left, including to abolish top-up insurance.

Dejan Židan, the head of the coalition Social Democrats (SD), said that had the Left had sincere intentions, it would have accepted the coalition's proposal "with open arms". "We have witnessed the realisation of a scenario which was apparently made a week ago," he added.

Židan believes that the party had already decided that it would be easier for it to increase ratings "if they get fully radicalised in the opposition," and that this was a tactic for short-distance runs, not long-term cooperation.

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