Not all doctors are dishonest and under-declare their income to the taxman, while those who do should be found and penalised under the law, the Cyprus Medical Association (CyMA) said on Tuesday.
CyMA was responding to a call by President Nicos Anastasiades for doctors to submit their tax returns for the past seven years.
Anastasiades, during an interview with Omega TV aired on Monday evening on the pay demands of private doctors as regards Gesy, said that physicians ought to remember their Hippocratic oath which is not about them getting rich but helping people.
In the meantime, a Health Insurance organisation (HIO) top official said on Tuesday that they were not able to understand why paediatricians and gastroenterologists announced they would not join Gesy since the final positions submitted to CyMA entertain all doctors’ concerns.
Private doctors fear the financial package they are being offered to participate in Gesy is not enough of an incentive.
Anastasiades called on them to submit, along with their demands, their tax returns for the last seven years, making an indirect reference to tax dodging.
“They [tax returns] should be submitted and whatever they [doctors] declare or have declared [as their income], should be given to them accordingly as their pay,” Anastasiades said during the interview, alluding to the possibility that many doctors understate their income on their tax returns.
He said that doctors’ negative reactions to Gesy was because they had not been adequately informed by their leadership as regards participation in the health scheme. He added that there were provisions for reassessment every five years to address any problems.
“We must put above all, the common good,” Anastasiades said. He added that he agreed that doctors must be adequately paid for their services and that the proposals of the HIO concerning private doctors’ pay under Gesy were generous.
He also spoke of “exaggerations” being spoken on behalf of doctors. The government refused to increase the Gesy budget, one of five conditions set by CyMA for participating in the health scheme.
Anastasiades called on those who gave the Hippocratic oath to be more modest, “because it is not just to get rich but to also serve.”
On behalf of CyMA, Dr Vasos Economou said on Tuesday that there were tax dodgers in all professions and that it was up to the competent state services to find who they were and make them face the consequences.
“They must impose the corresponding penalties. Then, we may have the money to introduce Gesy,” Economou told state broadcaster CyBC radio. Doctors argue that the Gesy budget is not adequate to ensure a viable health scheme.
Economou said that caution was necessary when making public statements while generalisations ought to be avoided. “There are honest doctors, ethically and morally, who work hard to earn money to help their children study and to build their homes,” he said.
He also said that every doctor was free to decide for themselves “based on their socioeconomic situation” whether he or she would like to join Gesy after they are briefed of the data presented to them by CyMA. Economou said that CyMA had scheduled a meeting with Anastasiades.
After gastroenterologists too announced that they would not join Gesy, just as paediatricians had done on Monday, deputy director of HIO Andreas Papaconstantinou said that they would focus on informing all doctors even one by one if necessary on Gesy provisions.
He added that, despite these two announcements, there were many private doctors who would join Gesy.
“It is a given that Gesy (phase one) will start on June 1, 2019,” Papaconstantinou told the Cyprus News Agency, adding that the final proposals HIO gave the medical association, “have entertained all concerns expressed over time by CyMA.”
The proposed package of benefits, he said, is a very good one. He also expressed bewilderment as to what exactly gastroenterologists and paediatricians were objecting to.
One disagreement that emerged, he said, was the issue concerning the demand to practise outside the system.
Papaconstantinou said that doctors will freely choose whether or not they would like to join the health scheme.
“If he or she decides to join Gesy they will still be free to practice their medicine, they will be able to work one, two hours or round the clock,” he said. But since Gesy guarantees them a fee for providing services, he said, they cannot choose to charge what they want in addition to that.
He also referred to the proposal by the health minister for an additional fee of €25 per patient to those who wish to work after 8pm on holidays and on weekends.
Papaconstantinou said that HIO has yet to receive the final positions of CyMA.
HIO has recently launched the Gesy website where members of the public may find useful information on the health scheme both in Greek and English.
A video was also prepared by the HIO on Gesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3tKzJegOI4#action=share. The Gesy website may be found at: https://www.gesy.org.cy