Cyprus will finally get a national health system, but introduced in two parts to allow time for the public and private sector services to cooperate.
Health Minister Philippos Patsalis announced a final agreement had been reached with the Troika of international lenders that want to see hospitals become independent trusts or organisations and lessen the financial burden on the public sector.
The deal was the most important conclusion of the fourth review of the bailout adjustment programme, as other issues such as dealing with non-performing loans are lagging behind.
Patsalis said that the basic principles of the planned healthcare system include comprehensive coverage for all citizens, socially fair cost allocation for vulnerable groups, the free choice of doctor and healthcare facility for citizens, and the financial viability of the system.
Full implementation of the NHS has been pushed back to mid-2016 after gradual implementation begins on July 1, 2015.
The first stage will include primary healthcare services – visits to personal doctors and paediatricians; the second stage, starting on January 1, 2016, will cover out-of-hospital healthcare – including all visits to specialty doctors and medication; and the third stage, on July 1, 2016, will see all aspects of the NHS implemented, Patsalis explained.
The system will be funded by contributions based on income, with employees paying 2.1% of their total income, employers contributing a higher rate of 2.2%, and the government contributing 4.5%.
The new plan envisages a single-insurer arrangement – the state health insurance organisation (OAY) – but opens the window for its transformation into a multi-insurer system, which would allow private insurance companies to compete.
The health minister said that a detailed action plan – including a roadmap for implementation – will be ready for approval by the Council of Ministers by June, while relevant legislation must be voted by the end of the year.
Get all the latest news and videos in your inbox. Register FREE