Cyprus Mail

Insurance companies warn of National Health Scheme risks

Insurance companies warned on Wednesday that the health ministry’s proposed insurance system for the National Health Scheme (Gesy) would cost customers more and some would have to pay double contributions.

The Insurance Association of Cyprus (Saek), which represents 30 insurance companies, said that it would send a letter to 150,000 customers to inform them of the latest developments regarding Gesy and warn them of the risks.

In the letter, the group, that supports a multi-payer health care system involving private insurers, warns of the risks of a single-payer health care system overseen by the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO).

There are two proposals on the table the group said.

“The one, of the business community, (which) is feasible and functional. The other, of the politicians, is practically impracticable and economically deadlocked,” Saek said.

Saek said that members of the public ought to have the option of choosing their doctors, hospitals, and their insurance provider, public or private.

“Then, if you are not satisfied by the service you may change insurance provider instead of staying forever trapped in a monopoly,” the announcement said.

Saek’s said its proposal would oblige insurance companies to offer upgraded healthcare services to every person, “without any exceptions, for every health problem, just as the state defines”.

“The health ministry’s proposal affects you directly: it refers to a monopoly insurance system that makes things worse than they are today. You will be called to pay double contributions or you will be forced, due to financial inability, to interrupt the insurance or – even worse – your treatment,” Saek said.

Behind the long delays in implementing Gesy, Saek said, lay an unpleasant truth: the numbers do not add up.

“The result is a bad scheme that further burdens the insured, sends workers to unemployment and undermines the prospects of the national economy,” Saek said.

The group said that it has already submitted to parliament its proposal.

Saek’s concerns run counter to a report by the World Health Organisation, commissioned by the health ministry three years.

The WHO report said that deficiencies in the Gesy’s software infrastructure, as well as a lack of historical data on which to base risk adjustment, would likely hinder efficiency in any multi-payer health care system that involves private insurers, either in competition with each other, or with the government insurer.

The report said that in the absence of software to monitor and record trends in healthcare for “at least two years”, private insurers would be likely tend to take on only low-risk clients, leaving older, sicker residents to the state HIO, which would then be burdened with increased diagnosis and treatment costs.

But, the WHO acknowledged that even single-payer healthcare systems cannot guarantee success, as they could fail to put in place the right incentives to improve efficiency and quality, leading to poor performance.

No option will be effective in strengthening health system performance without strong government capacity to set priorities, monitor performance and hold stakeholders to account, the report said.

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