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Our View: Gesy is simply unsustainable without reform

surgey

Perhaps now the auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides has sounded a warning about the finances of the national health scheme, Gesy, veering out of control, the political parties and media, which do not allow public criticism of it, will accept that all is not well.

In the last few weeks, when the matter of the growing spending was brought up and some dared to suggest that major improvements in the management of funds were necessary, the self-styled Gesy defenders accused them of wanting to dismantle the system and introduce private health insurance firms. It was a foolish argument, ignoring the necessity of preventing Gesy becoming a continuous drain on making it viable.

In a letter about its finances sent to three House committees, Michaelides warned that in 2022, despite revenue significantly higher than forecasted, the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO), which manages the finances of the scheme, will have a deficit of €100 million. What was particularly worrying was that although it would enjoy revenue 30 per cent higher than had been forecast by Mercer – the consultants that carried out the study on finances – its expenses would be 43 per cent higher than forecast.

He gave the actual figures. Expenses for 2022, according to the Mercer model, should have been €990m, but are expected to be €1.419bn. Revenue, which should have been €1.108bn will be €1.307bn, hence the deficit mentioned above. And as Michaelides pointed out, the deficits recorded by Okypy, the organisation running the public hospitals, also kept rising. On the one hand it failed to meet its revenue targets from treatment of patients and on the other hand its expenses kept rising.

This was inevitable given the pay rises given to government doctors so they would not leave public hospitals and the civil service’s restrictive practices such as no afternoon work. As for the HIO, it has quite clearly allowed abuses of the system because it is incapable of carrying out proper control either of private hospitals or specialist doctors working within the system, whose only concerns seems to be sending big bills to the HIO, not to mention the ludicrously high rewards given to GPs.

Everyone must understand that bringing attention to the failings of Gesy and the rampant squandering of the taxpayer’s money does not mean people want to dismantle it as the opposition parties claim. If it is to survive and serve all the people, both the HIO and Okypy need to put their houses in order. It may be more difficult for Okypy, which is dealing with powerful public sector unions backed by the parties, but the HIO has no excuses. Its checks and controls system have been proved inadequate and if they are not fixed, it may be looking at a deficit even higher than €100m next year.

These organisations must be pressured by politicians and the media to take drastic action now, if Gesy is to survive, rather than attacking those calling for the improvements.

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