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Greeks want faster and cheaper health care and more money for prevention

23 September 2014 / 15:09:42  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The economic crisis has caused many changes in Greek society, one of the most affected sectors being that of health care. The reduced state funding combined with the inability of the majority of the Greeks to pay even a fraction of the insurance has caused the failure of the primary care system (hospitals and health centres).

As a result, 2/3 of their visits to doctors for diagnostic purposes over the past six months have been to private doctors, whether they work with the health insurance funds or not.

"The main conclusions of the poll conducted to detect the attitude of Greeks towards the health services in the country are three. They want faster and cheaper services and are of the opinion that the majority of the budget for health care should be directed towards the system of primary health care," said professor of health economics Yiannis Kiriopoulous. He presented the poll results at the conference "A World of Health: Providing a Modernized, Sustainable and Predictable Health Care System" organized in Athens by the American-Greek Chamber of Commerce.

72.9% of respondents identify their health as good or very good and 50.2% indicate that they suffer from a chronic health problem. Kiriopoulous explained that this category includes all kinds of health problems, not only the severe cases. The fact that 76.7% of respondents say that the health problems that have occurred over the past six months have not caused their inability to take care of themselves alone proves this too.

At the same time, although 93.7% of Greeks say they have health insurance, more than 25% of them are unable to visit a doctor because they are unable to pay their share in it. The majority of these people attribute this to the fact that they are unemployed or do not have enough money to pay that share.

In parallel, only 16.9% have full private insurance whereas 60.8% are insured in state funds alone. However, and despite the decrease in income, 21.8% of Greeks are partly insured in private insurance funds.

According to Kiriopoulous, the consumption of health services has dramatically declined in recent years. 40.6% of respondents have reduced their visits to a doctor and only 8.5% indicate that they have increased them.

The collapse of the state system of primary health care is indicated by the fact that from an average of three visits to a doctor over the past six months, two of them have been to a private doctor, whether he or she works with the state health insurance fund or not. 27% of visits had preventive purposes and in 90% of cases, the laboratory tests were performed in private diagnostic centres.

According to the poll, and despite the reprimand on the part of the political system and managers in the sector of health care, the Greeks do not attend hospitals en masse even for problems that do not require hospital treatment. One proof of this is the low percentage of patients treated in public hospitals over the past six months, namely 7.6%. According to the professor, it is a little below the average value of the member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

During the same period, Greek households spent an average of 265 euro for health care and medicines. All are adamant that their health care expenditure has increased several times compared to the period before 2009. As for the visits to private clinics, Kiriopoulous said that despite the 50% reduction of fees, the costs of admission and treatment have increased due to the increase in the salaries of doctors.

As expected, the majority of Greeks define as negative the changes in the health care system that occurred after 2009. "But even though more than 65% believe that the situation has worsened, 36% state that they are not at all, or less, interested in the policy of the sector. This is embarrassing", said the professor.

65% of Greeks are not satisfied with the services offered by the reformed state health insurance fund. "Gradually, however, the data show a slight improvement, and this is indicative of the willingness of people to pay part of the cost of services as long as their quality is better. Currently, the assessment of 49.3% of citizens is negative and only 15% have a favourable opinion of the services offered by the PEDI system. However, 17.9% state that they are satisfied with the services to a certain extent, which shows the direction of the changes that will be taken," said Kiriopoulous.

The respondents in the poll are most satisfied with the services provided in neighbourhood private diagnostic centres. This answer is the preference of 79.6% of them. Next on the list are private doctors with a rate of 60.9% and private hospitals with 56.4%. Public hospitals rank fourth with 50.2%.

Tags: SocietyHealth careDiagnostic centresHealth care servicesPollYiannis Kiriopoulous
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