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New headache as employers balk at NHS contributions

Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis

As procedures are underway for the gradual implementation of the National Health Scheme (NHS), professional groups have expressed their concerns for terms of the proposed legislation they deem as harmful to their interests.

On Thursday, an online conversation was sparked between Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis and the Employers and Industrialists Federation (Oev) over the contribution of employers to the NHS.

The House health committee concluded late last month discussion on the bill rendering state hospitals financially and administratively autonomous, which is a pre-requisite of the NHS, and is set to begin deliberations on a second bill amending some provisions of the original NHS framework with the aim for both bills to be tabled simultaneously and forwarded to the plenum for a vote.

The goal, is for a public organisation to be set up by June 2017 which will oversee hospital autonomy.

The spat between Pamboridis and Oev begun following the minister’s comments on a state broadcaster CyBC television show on Thursday on the recently expressed concerns of the employers’ association as to their contributions to the NHS fund.

“This is the first time I hear that Oev has an issue as to their contribution,” Pamboridis said. He added that according to the existing legislation on the NHS, passed in 2001, employers’ contribution would be 2.93 per cent. “Our suggestion provides for a reduction in this contribution to 2.85 per cent,” he said.

“Why should they bring up this issue 15 years later? Where were you gentlemen 15 years ago, when this was under discussion?” Pamboridis said. Oev had participated in the consultations and at the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO), he said.

“Unless some people gave you reassurances that the NHS will never be implemented…,” Pamboridis said. He added that the NHS would be introduced as per the president’s intention.

Following the comments, Oev tweeted that it did not agree for the employers’ contribution rate to be set in their absence.

“Those who will fund the NHS must participate in the decision in question,” Oev said in a second tweet.

In another tweet, Oev said that the HIO – whose mission is the implementation of the NHS- has requested a meeting with them for the first time last week, to which Pamboridis expressed his bewilderment. “What are you talking about? You have a representative on the HIO board since it has been founded and you are informed of all the studies and scenarios,” the minister said.

Head of Oev, Michalis Antoniou, who made an intervention in the TV show in question, said that they wanted, among other thing, to ensure there would be no appeals for an increase in contributions from any party.

“We are talking about the distribution of an annual charge ranging between €1bn and €1.5bn,” Antoniou said.  “How will this charge be distributed among the providers? A dialogue must be initiated so that concerns are heard”.

Oev, he said, is to meet with the HIO on Monday to discuss this.

Pamboridis also stressed that the NHS would be implemented despite obstacles put forward by various agencies, including the Cyprus Medical Association which is calling for new studies before the implementation of the NHS.

The only body that can reverse the course of the NHS is the parliament, Pamboridis said. He also expressed concerns that political leaders seem to have fallen back on their agreement at their meeting with the president earlier in the year to press ahead with the NHS.

 

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