The Parliament Passes the Amendments to the Law on Medical Institutions

The Health Insurance Fund will finance hospitals only according to the needs of the population

The Health Insurance Fund will not finance all newfound hospitals and will base its decisions on the National Health Card, which will have an obligatory nature. It will list the needs of the regional population. This was the bottom-line decision of the Parliament when adopting the amendments to the Law on Medical Institutions.

GERB listened to the promise of Prime Minister Borisov to provide support for the health reform of Minister Petar Moskov. The most important changes which concern the funding of hospitals will be solved with the regulations and methodologies of the Health Ministry. It will depend on the Health Minister whether the NHIF will refuse hospital contracts and which hospitals will that be, and whether the government and private hospitals will be forced to unite and for what. Currently Bulgaria has twice as many hospital beds as the EU, and according to the statistics, every fourth Bulgarian is hospitalized once a year, and in practice such people are subjected to treatment not necessarily or even needlessly.

The National Health Card will have an obligatory nature. It will describe by districts the population medical attention needs. How treatment needs in specialties and hospitals will be determined will be recorded in the methodology of the Health Ministry. The Fund will not finance all institutions in the regions where there are more hospitals than population needs. The criteria by which the NHIF will decide with whom to form a contract and who will remain without funding, will be described in an ordinance. Minister Moscow claims that hospitals that provide comprehensive treatment and do not focus only on well-funded activities by the NHIF will receive priority funding.

The law provides that the treatment which paid by the NHIF is divided into two packages – Basic and Additional. For the diseases of the Basic package, a comprehensive treatment of which will be provided, the Health Fund will only enter into contracts with hospitals or groups of hospitals that can provide this. Minister Moskov explained that his idea of comprehensive care will be enacted into an ordinance for cancer, the most common cardiovascular diseases and for some rare diseases starting next year. The aim is to have comprehensive care provide for the whole Basic package within the next 3 years.

The proposal of the Health Minister was the care in question to be provided in one place, i.e. either in a hospital or a group of hospitals. But the majority adopted a softer text according to which hospitals will able to enter into contracts with each other to receive funding from the NHIF for complex care, without merging.

The idea is, for example, in cancer patient treatment to have at any stage a guarantee for surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and not to receive surgical treatment in one hospital, and infusions – in another, where the person arranges the stay by himself. The NHIF would not pay all hospitals for the reported treatment covering 3 clinical pathways, and would enter into a single contract for all the treatment needed in one. That is, either all pathways would be paid for, or none. Hospitals would have to arrive at an understanding whether to group into holding companies or unions under the Trade Act, or to enter into contracts among themselves and decide who would receive how much funding.

The opposition is concerned that if the state, municipal and private hospitals begin to make associations this would lead to siphoning money. But according to Moskov, the idea is that hospitals, dealing only with chemotherapy, for example, would not be able to receive money directly from the Fund, as well as that consolidating would help downsize the administration.

The idea which caused protests in the summer – that oncology, psychiatric and skin outpatient facilities should merge with the other hospitals – was dropped once and for all. Hospital accreditation will be required in order to land a contract with the NHIF, as it is now, and directors of hospitals are still required to have a qualification in Health Management.

What will the packages contain?

By the 15th of September it should become clear what the Basic package would contain and what the Additional one would contain, said Deputy Health Minister Vanyo Sharkov. The diseases from the Basic package would be the main priority and, according to the promises of Moskov, there would be 100% guaranteed funding for them, while those from the Additional will receive less money than now and the treatment would have to wait. The Basic package would include child and maternal health, strokes, cardiology, cardiac surgery and interventional cardiology, traumatology and neurosurgery. Regarding the Additional package what is clear for the time being is that it would contain the “pimples” in the words of Sharkov – i.e. the non-essential diseases. Most one-day eye surgery would be transferred from hospital to outpatient care. The Basic package was also not defined in a law, and the determining of its contents was left entirely to the Ministry of Health.