Diagnostics centres and medical labs affiliated to Gesy have been complaining because the unit price they are paid has been steadily falling. Phileleftheros reported that the unit price for diagnostics centres had fallen from €13 in January 2021 to €9.75 in January of this year, while for medical labs it went from 94 cents in 2020 to 76 cents in April this year.
The unit price is dependent on the number of diagnostic tests carried out, with the Health Insurance Organisation allocating an amount for the year. It is obvious that the number of tests have been increasing every year, but the annual amount allocated by the HIO has not increased by as much. Does this mean that more people were getting ill every year and in need of undergoing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) tests? Highly unlikely.
Too many doctors have been signing referrals for their patients, either because they do not want to take any responsibility for a diagnosis or because the patient demands it. The HIO is reportedly investigating the referrals signed off by tens of specialists to establish whether these were justified. It has also tried to impose restrictions in an attempt to maintain the unit cost at reasonable levels.
Diagnostics centres, meanwhile, are claiming that they are becoming unviable because of the low unit price. Another contributing factor to the falling unit price could be the large number of diagnostics centres, which make it possible for the monthly tests to increase and thus lower the unit price. Some of these centres might not even be up to scratch, but there are no standards that have to be met nor is there any inspection carried out by HIO before one registers as a Gesy provider.
The situation is a costly mess for the HIO, which at least acknowledges that it has to be dealt with. The first priority would have to be to set standards for diagnostics centres that would register with Gesy, excluding centres with poor equipment and unqualified staff. A smaller number of centres would reduce the number of tests per month, increasing waiting times for patients and, perhaps, reducing the number of referrals.
Ever since the establishment of Gesy, four years ago, the HIO has been at pains to stop abuses of the system both by patients and doctors. There was talk about educating the public, but nothing changed, so limits have been placed on referrals, visits to personal doctors, and lab tests among other things. Patients, however, are still demanding referrals for MRI tests that are unjustified. This is because the test is free. Perhaps the HIO should consider a €10 or €20 charge for every MRI test to reduce demand. If people have to pay, they might not be so demanding and might accept that MRI tests are not justified for every ailment.