*by Jacqueline Anastassiades
Cyprus is at the start of a very difficult era for its economy, with a multitude of negative consequences on a number of aspects of everyday life. The state, but also the private sector, is trying to put the economy back on a course of growth with various schemes and with the support of the Troika.
An important factor, which could help restore the country’s economic growth, is to accelerate implementation of the National Health Scheme (GeSY). An efficient and viable GeSY can contribute to reducing the negative effects of the crisis, in the public as well as the private sector.
It is evident that the current model of health system financing and provision cannot be sustainable in the future, especially in the light of the forecasted developments during the period of the economic support program.
Private demand is forecasted to contract and the same applies to the levels of public health care spending. Given the current structure of the health care system, the decrease in private incomes will lead more people to demand the use of public healthcare services, which will call for increased public spending on health care. However, this might not be possible in the short term because of the necessary public budget restrictions and the loss of public revenue as a result of decreased economic activity in the country. If the public and private health care sectors are not able to meet the increasing health care needs of the Cypriot population, then the economic crisis will be accompanied by a possible health crisis, which in effect will undermine Cyprus’s ability to recover from the recession in the near future.
On the contrary, the new National Health System reform in Cyprus will pave the way for solving major problems faced by the health sector in Cyprus today and is expected to have significant benefits for the state, particularly for Cypriot patients:
- It will lead to better coordination of health care provision as it will be able to reconcile the currently available infrastructures in the public and private sectors
- It will guarantee the right of access to necessary health care services to all citizens in need and ensure that the appropriate eligibility rules are in place so as to cover for the emerging groups of unemployed, reduced income working population that may appear during the crisis. Thus the new health system could become an instrumental platform for enhancing social cohesion in the country.
- It can work as a platform to modernise the health care system by implementing innovative solutions both in the finance and provision of care, taking into account the international experience and the collaboration that will develop between Cyprus and other EU member states.
- It will enable the health care sector to become a growth sector with multiple positive implications for the economy of Cyprus. It is true that more health leads to more wealth so the “health economy” can be a fuel for growth in the country.
- It will complement the efforts and resources of many people that have been involved in this effort in recent years, and will place Cyprus among other advanced countries in terms of health care coverage.
Accelerating the implementation of the GeSY will help to manage the financial challenges of the economic crisis and position the health of the population as a key factor for social solidarity and economic growth.
*Jacqueline Anastassiades is the President of the Cyprus Association of Research and Development Pharmaceutical Companies (KEFEA).