PM dumps central bank healthcare insurance scheme

Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kučinskis on Tuesday appeared to finally rule out the introduction of a new compulsory private health insurance scheme after several weeks of vacillation on the issue. 

The introduction of compulsory private health insurance was the brainchild of the Latvian central bank (LB) which has been campaigning for months on the issue and last week called a conference dedicated to it.

That saw the central bank laying out its proposals one again in a lengthy presentation on healthcare by the central bank's monetary policy expert to which the Health Minister was allowed to briefly respond.

Opening the conference, Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis said the creation of "optimal healthcare services" required proper funding and must be completed by 2018.

"High quality healthcare should be available to every Latvian. Future growth is reliant upon having healthy people capable of working," said Vejonis.

The central bank's proposals were part of what governor Ilmars Rimsevics has described as its new role as a think-tank in addition to the usual tasks performed by a central bank.

Initial reaction by government to the proposals was skeptical, but in recent weeks the mood appeared to be warming.

However, Kučinskis struck a very different note Tuesday on LTV when he described the introduction of private health insurance as potentially "dangerous".

"I have had talks with the World Bank and OECD, which have analyzed the situation in Latvia, and the only model supported is that healthcare financing comes from the state," Kučinskis said.

"I would say that the central bank proposals could be a little bit dangerous in the long term," he added.

Ordinary Latvians could not afford to subscribe to private insurance schemes, Kučinskis explained.

"Given the current economic situation I don;t see how every Latvian with a job could afford an extra 300 euros [per year]," he said. 

He then took to Twitter to reiterate the point.

"The Bank of Latvia proposed health care funding model could be dangerous. State-funded healthcare is supported," he wrote.

Back in July he invited the central bank to develop its healthcare proposals in order to judge which model would be best. Then on September 20 Kučinskis said a precise model would need to be chosen by next April. He repeated the April 1 deadline for a long-term plan to be in place on Tuesday.

The central bank is also working on its own proposals for the education sector. 

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