Health Minister calls for massive health care spending boost

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Latvia should raise its health care expenditures to 4% of GDP from the current 2.9%, according to Latvia's Health Minister Anda Čakša.

In a strongly worded announcement (Latvian) to the press released Thursday, Čakša claimed that Latvia's health care expenditures are significantly smaller than the rest of the OECD, where health care spending is between 5.1 to 16.4% and that funding should be increased at least by €70m to €90m a year, coupled with reform in the industry.

The minister said that mandatory private health insurance would "essentially be a new tax" and while its introduction could be considered, she fears that people in Latvia cannot afford to pay €20-70 a month to cover the costs.

Čakša also claimed that during the term of Guntis Belēvičs, the previous health minister, the government had come up with a mixed financing model under which the government would fund only emergency medical services, leaving the rest to private insurers.

"I am certain that Latvia’s population is not ready for such a shock. In truth, it would mean switching to paid medicine,” Caksa said, saying she would do everything she can to prevent a scenario like that.

"If [raising healthcare expenditures to 4% of GDP] doesn't happen, I can vow that Latvia's health care will only deteriorate. It will become less accessible, the number of specialists will shrink, as will all possible indicators," she said, while praising the medics' selfless work in maintaining high standards of health care despite scant means.  

Earlier the Health Ministry said extra money could be found if part of the social tax would go to health care without adding to the total tax burden.

The Health Ministry’s parliamentary secretary, Janis Trupovnieks, told LETA previously that channeling one percent of social tax into health care would mean around EUR 70 million additional financing for the sector annually.

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