Latvian health budget should be raised to 5% of GDP - WHO representative

Latvia should spend 5 percent of its GDP on healthcare, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) representative Tamas Evetovits believes.

On April 30, the WHO representative participated in a joint meeting of the Saeima Social and Labor Affairs Committee and Budget and Finance (Taxation) Committee to discuss healthcare funding.

At the meeting, Latvian lawmakers heard Evetovits’ presentation exploring Latvia’s health system and residents’ healthcare spending.

The WHO expert underlined that the health system should include all residents regardless of their employment status and tax payments. He also stressed that healthcare institutions are not tax collectors and that tax collection is the responsibility of other institutions.

The WTO representative reiterated that a two-basket system in healthcare would not be effective and would not promote equality. Evetovits also believes that patients in Latvia are required to cover an excessively large part of healthcare expenses and that this situation has to change. For instance, Evetovits suggested abolishing co-payments for pensioners and patients with chronical conditions, as well as to shorten waiting times.

Evetovits said that Latvia can afford to spend more on healthcare and that the spending target should be 5 percent of GDP.

Health Ministry State Secretary Daina Murmane-Umbrasko indicated at the meeting of the Saeima committees that the health system should be organized so that it was accessible to any resident of Latvia.

The ministry official said that Latvia now plans to drop the idea of the two-basket system and ensure the provision of government-paid healthcare services to all residents of Latvia.

Health Minister Ilze Vinkele (For Development/For) urged politicians to heed the WHO expert’s opinion and take it into consideration when deciding on healthcare-related issues.

Andris Skride (For Development/For), chairman of the Saeima Social and Labor Affairs Committee, said that his committee will work in partnership with the Welfare Ministry on solutions to reduce patients’ co-payments for government-funded medications and other issues.

As reported, under the Latvian healthcare financing law, the health budget has to reach at least 4 percent of GDP by 2020. Earlier, the health minister voiced doubts the target would be met.

Vinkele said at the Saeima social and labor affairs committee meeting in March that the Health Ministry will work to achieve this goal, still, the forecasts are not very good because in 2020 the European Commission’s permission to increase budget deficit on the account of healthcare budget expires, and financing to the healthcare sector would thus reduce by EUR 10 million.

According to Vinkele, in order to raise healthcare budget to 4 percent of GDP next year, additional EUR 120 million are needed.

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