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Our View: Drastic action needed to halt Gesy abuses

Constantinos Ioannou with HIO officials

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou took some time off dealing with Covid-19 on Thursday to discuss some Gesy-related issues with Health Insurance Organisation (HIO). One of the matters discussed were the abuses of Gesy and the measures taken by the HIO to restrict them. The abuses – people routinely demanding MRI scans, blood tests etc and doctors granting the referrals without a second thought – were costing large amounts of money and putting the system unnecessarily under strain.

We doubt the HIO measures will have proved very effective, because the way the system has been designed it gives a financial incentive to all health providers to assist in the abuse of the system. The personal doctor would lose a patient registered with him/her if they did not sign a referral letter; labs want to carry out as many medical tests as possible and ditto MRI scanning centres. In short, everyone on the health treatment chain has an interest to generate as much medical business as possible as it increases revenue.

Patients are not just happy to generate as much business as possible for doctors, labs and other healthcare providers, they consider their inalienable right. They and their employers contribute to Gesy every month and expect to have healthcare on tap. There is also the mentality that they should get their money’s worth of care, every month, even if though they might not need it. This mentality, or the idea that healthcare is now free, makes people demand all types of care and treatment they do not need, thus helping all tiers of providers increase their revenue.

The HIO has set limits to the number of medical actions a patient could seek, but this will not stop the unnecessary drain on healthcare resources. More drastic action is necessary. For instance, there should be a small charge for every type of care that a patient is given – 5 to 10 euro – to at least stop people from seeking an MRI scan for a sore thumb. Some will argue, with some justification, that it is wrong to charge people for care they have already paid for, through their Gesy contribution, but it is the only way to stop the abuses that are threatening the viability of the system and, hopefully, change the mentality that universal healthcare is unlimited, as free and abundant as the air.

This will not show that Gesy has failed, as some would no doubt claim, but it could help the scheme remain viable without increasing people’s monthly contribution.

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