The Gesy law prohibits private doctors treating Gesy patients in hospitals that are contracted to the HIO (Health Insurance Organisation). This had always been the case, even though the HIO turned a blind eye to this unlawful practice, ever since 2020.

Under pressure from deputies and the auditor-general, the HIO decided that it would respect the law governing Gesy’s operation, but offered a grace period, with the illegality set to end at the beginning of this month. In the meantime, one of the affected doctors took legal action against the HIO but knowing it would take years before the case was heard, applied to the court for an interim order that would suspend the ban, until a ruling was issued.

It seems rather absurd that anyone would apply for an interim order so that he could continue to violate the law, until the court ruled whether a decision to implement the law was lawful. Only in our peculiar state could such a thing happen. Then again, the applicant could claim that for two years the mighty HIO, which does pretty much as it pleases and is accountable to nobody, had acquiesced to the illegality which was being perpetrated with its full knowledge, so why is it stopping it now?

It is because the HIO has always done as it pleases. As the Gesy dealmaker and paymaster, it has excessive powers, manages a budget of €1 billion and appears as the great benefactor of the people. The poor management of resources, inadequate controls and checks, and the squandering of funds are swept under the carpet, and nobody dares to bring up these issues, because everyone supports Gesy and credits the HIO for its operation.

As a society, however, we should be worried about the fact that so much power and money are concentrated in the hands of a few unaccountable technocrats, running an organization that has turned healthcare into a big state monopoly, controlling almost all private hospitals and having most doctors under contract. Meanwhile, private hospitals outside Gesy are being squeezed by this powerful monopoly, until they are also forced to join it.

This calculated elimination of healthy competition cannot be good for the healthcare sector as there will be no incentives for Gesy hospitals to invest in new medical equipment, upgrade facilities and introduce new treatments. As long as their beds are occupied with Gesy patients – who are surgery patients as the day-rates are higher – the HIO will carry on paying them. In these conditions the quality of care will inevitably decline, which is why a major review of the HIO and the way it administers healthcare is an imperative.

On a positive note, the new chairman of the HIO, Stavros Michael, speaking on Thursday, conceded Gesy was plagued by problems, particularly its constantly growing budget, and pledged to tackle these.