By Angelos Anastasiou
Implementation of the National Health Scheme (NHS) may be delayed as the software infrastructure – a necessary prerequisite for implementation – will most likely not be ready on time, sources cited by the Cyprus News Agency said on Thursday.
In a meeting on Wednesday, Health Minister Philippos Patsalis briefed Troika delegates on progress made on the NHS issue, the phased implementation of which is scheduled to take 12 months starting July 2015.
However, a host of obstacles threaten to throw the schedule off track, mostly relating to delays in the introduction of software necessary for the implementation of the long-awaited project.
According to the CNA, the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) recently informed Patsalis that the software hasn’t been prepared yet, and won’t be ready for the first or second phase of implementation – starting July 1, 2015 and January 1, 2016, respectively – thus pushing it back.
The same sources claimed that the delay is most likely due to political, as opposed to technical, reasons.
It is reminded that recent amendments to the original NHS plan sidelined the HIO – originally the scheme’s administrators – and transferred ownership of implementation and administration to the health ministry.
Negotiations with the Troika have also brought another significant change to the original plan – the potential of turning the single-payer scheme into a multi-payer one in future. According to initial planning, the HIO is the sole insurer handling the NHS budget, but subsequent amendments have left open the window for a multi-insurer system, which would engage private insurance companies.
In any case, implementation of the NHS cannot move forward without the software in question.
Nonetheless, and the HIO’s territorial disputes with the health ministry notwithstanding, the Troika delegates left Wednesday’s meeting pleased with the ministry’s best efforts to facilitate implementation of the NHS as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, two studies are currently being prepared in connection with the NHS.
The first relates to rendering public healthcare facilities financially independent and will be ready within 20 days. Financial autonomy of every public hospital is also a thorny issue and a prerequisite for NHS implementation, with some stakeholders claiming it a fantasy based on flawed assumptions.
The second relates to the possibility of a multi-payer system and is expected within one month.
The two studies are expected to significantly impact NHS planning and are being prepared by experts from the World Health Organisation and the European Commission.
On the issue of restructuring public hospitals and making them financially viable, the Troika delegation has recorded immense progress, as the matter has reached the stage of consultation, debate and voting by parliament.
A small delay due to the civil servants’ union PASYDY requesting the Attorney-general’s legal advice on the matter of transferring civil servants to a state-owned company under private law – as hospitals will operate under the new regime – is expected to have negligible impact on scheduling.
The bill on hospital autonomy is expected to be voted by parliament in time for implementation in the third quarter of 2015.