It is a well-know neo-liberal policy: health issues lay in the responsibility of the patient. It is also a well-known fact that cuts in the health sector are top priority not only of the International Monetary Fund but of every government in every country that imposes austerity measures – see NHS in UK, Germany in the 1990’s.
As if Cancer is not punishment enough for the sufferers, Greece’s Health Minister Panagiotis Kouroubis plans to add another burden on the cancer patients: a financial one.
Kouroublis told daily Eleftheros Typos that he plans to make four types of tests to detect cancer in men and women compulsory and that if people who did not undergo the checks later developed the disease they would have to pay 50% of their treatment cost from their own pockets.
According to Kouroublis, the tests to be compulsory are: mammography and test PAP for women, prostate cancer test PSA for men and colon cancer test for both sexes.
According to Mega TV, the costs for these tests is:
Mammography: €40 – €120 (not subsidized by insurance funds)
Test PAP: €25 (insurance funds pay 85%)
PSA test: €60 (not subsidized by insurance funds)
Colonoscopy: €70 (Insurance funds pay 85%)
To these tests blood tests including hormone and biochemical tests should be added at the cost of €250 (insurance funds pay 85%).
KTG’s note: Add the sum up and find the nice piece of cake and bill especially for the more than 2.5 million of uninsured citizens without income in this debt-ridden country called Greece.
Whether the treatment or the prevention and early detection tests refer to insured or uninsured citizens, it will make no difference for the cancer patients living in a country eternally hostage to its creditors. Main thing: health care budgets are cut to the bone and the cost is being pushed to the shoulders and pockets of the people.
Already in September 2014, Greek Health Minister Makis Voridis (New Democracy) imposed strict criteria for subsidized cancer prevention tests and also imposed a monthly cap for diagnosis tests to all laboratories and this cap is based on criteria of population, needs and number of tests in previous years.
PAP test will be subsidized by National Health System (EOPYY) for women in the ages 21-65 only with auditing time every three years. Until now EOPYY was paying for Test PAP from the beginning of sexual life.
Mammography will subsidized for women over 40 years old once per year, however not for women suffering from “sever and chronic illnesses”.
Diagnosis tests for prostate cancer will be subsidize for men aged 40-75 and only if they do not suffer from “coexistent illnesses”. Prostate test will be subsidized 1) for men over 50 and for men 45-50 if they have father or brother who has suffered from prostate cancer in the age of below 65 and 2) for men 40-45 if they have multiple relatives affected by prostate cancer at the age of below 65. (KTG 8. Sept 2014)
Kouroublis’s proposal triggered strong reaction among the medical community that urged the Health Ministry to better start first with “a scheme of public awareness for the prevention need.”
“It is not feasible for politicians to implement their own makeshift schemes when medicine has gathered such expertise,” said Dimitris Varnavas, head of the union representing national health system doctors (OENGE). He suggested that having cancer was “enough punishment” for failing to undergo precautionary checks.
Kouroublis insisted that his aim is to heighten awareness about the disease and challenged his critics to put forward better ideas.
“When the intensity of the cancer phenomena kills people and especially young people, the hypocrisy excess, ” Kouroublis commented on the medical community reactions.
I cannot tell you whether the Greek Health Minister plans to enforce ‘cancer prevention tests’ to all society groups – independently of whether they belong to high risk groups- and moreover starting from age ‘zero’. The lawyer in the position of the health Minister has most probably no a single idea or a thorough concept yet – apart from further cuts in the health care.
I mean, if he introduces this scheme in 2015, as of which year cancer patients will start paying the cost of their treatment? As of 2016 or 2017? As of 2020, because the creditors’ program in current negotiation has projections until 2020?Will it have retrospective effect in the sense that: compulsory tests are imposed in 2015, a patient is diagnosed with cancer in 2016, and Kouroublis will charge him with 50% of treatment cost because he did not undergo prevention tests in the previous 3, 5, 10 years?
I think, the whole idea is a crap, anyway and has only one aim: to please the creditors.
Already in February 2014, another clown of Greek Health Minister in times of austerity programs had claimed that “Illnesses like cancer are not considered urgent, unless one is in the final stages.” Adonis Georgiadis (ND) – a lawyer – was speaking to Washington Post about cancer treatment for uninsured patients.
I can fully understand, the eager of right-wing Voridis and Georgiadis to compoly with creditors demands. Panagiotis Kouroublis, also a lawyer, started with PASOK, was expelled from the party for not having voted in favor of second loan agreement, moved to SYRIZA and ended up in the same line as the right-wing.
PS I guess, there is something wrong when lawyers are appointed to function as health ministers.