The cabinet on Wednesday approved a proposal by which all university students in Cyprus will receive free healthcare at state hospitals, Education Minister Costas Kadis said.
Speaking to reporters after a cabinet session, Kadis said the body decided to satisfy “a long-standing demand of our students for free healthcare”.
He added that discussions on the issue had been held between the health, finance and education ministries, during which it was found that the measure’s cost was “fully manageable”. The minister said he plans to meet with student union Pofen to formally announce the cabinet decision.
He did not say what the cost would be.
Kadis said it is not expected to be very high, but will eventually depend on the number of students opting to receive healthcare at state hospitals.
Students who are chronic patients, he added, are anyway covered by the existing system, thus the new decision covers mainly students who are “at an age and stage in their life with the least healthcare demands”.
All students whether in public or private universities are covered he said..
Reacting to the announcement, Akel-affiliated student union Proodeftiki said restoring free healthcare for students, which the government revoked in April 2013, has been a constant demand since.
“After four years of demanding the restoration of this injustice, our students are now eligible for something that was previously taken for granted,” the union said.
“However, it is at least provocative for the government to make this move after 4.5 years of mockery. In our view, free healthcare should never have been taken away from students.”
The government’s announcement also prompted reaction by the Citizens’ Alliance, which linked the measure with the upcoming presidential election in January, accusing the administration of President Nicos Anastasiades of “continuing its pre-election vote-seeking perks”.
“It was the university students’ turn, who will be entitled to free healthcare at state hospitals,” the statement said.
“We welcome the decision. But it comes at a time when public hospitals are reeling because of the economic crisis, which has driven the public to private hospitals.”
Health matters, the party said, are best kept away from the election campaign.
“For better or worse, several other issues lend themselves to campaign clashes,” it said.