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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Power struggle for healthcare profits

By: Peter Jančič (Spletni časopis)

“I did not know what to do. Should I laugh or should I cry? The only thing I was sure of was that the state is mocking the citizens, that the prime minister and the government are mocking the citizens, that the health minister is mocking the citizens, and that the leader of the Svoboda parliamentary group is mocking the citizens.”

This is how Ivan Simič assessed the government’s decision this week to pay Triglav Insurance Company eleven million euros in compensation for last year’s freeze on supplementary insurance premiums. Agreements with Vzajemna, which will receive 14.1 million, and with Generali for an additional 8.4 million, are still to be signed. A total of 33.5 million euros.

Regarding the information on how much last year’s fight by Robert Golob, Valentina Prevolnik Rupel, and Borut Sajovic against rising healthcare costs will cost us, we followed loud protests by the government’s Voice of the People in the media in front of the building of the private healthcare company MD Medicina and read articles about the terrible things happening there because doctors from the Clinical Centre are allegedly flocking to the private MD Medicina. Not for treatment, but to work. This is supposedly an outrageous crime. It is only a step away from our Prime Minister Golob, who has been reforming healthcare for two years with the voice of the people of Jaša Jenull, declaring that he will nationalise all such companies to prevent outrageous private profits. Next year, there will be compensations again.

Sick people will be left to suffer because the treatments provided by these private practitioners will no longer be available. The state finds it unprofitable. These services entail only costs and no profits.

Golob already took this direction last year. Now we are paying 33.5 million euros to insurance companies so he could boast, “We froze prices, preventing private profits.” After the freeze, to further prevent “profits,” they nationalised supplementary insurance. This was at the request of the Levica party, which strongly advocates for state healthcare. Marjan Šarec’s government attempted this project before, but it collapsed when Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj resigned for “professional reasons.”

While listing the politicians who are mocking people with ten-million-euro payouts for populist showboating, Simič omitted the current Finance Minister Klemen Boštjančič. Boštjančič has not publicly scored points, but he pays for every demagogic act with public money. For instance, the crumbling dream building on Litijska Street, where he “found” more than six million euros from state reserves, which are meant for natural disasters and unforeseen events, and redirected it for the “private profits” of Sebastjan Vežnaver. Meanwhile, the government, alongside Golob, is persecuting “private profits” in healthcare and paying for five dream buildings just to freeze healthcare insurance price increases. This 33.5 million euros will not go to healthcare because the business with insurance companies was later taken over by the state, which is planning additional hundred-million-euro deficits. As Simič described:

“They also said they would abolish voluntary health insurance, and indeed they did, but they introduced a mandatory health contribution in the identical amount of 35.00 EUR. They turned voluntary into mandatory. So, practically, nothing changed. They also convinced us that they would take the profitable business away from insurance companies, yet at the same time reserved 240 million euros in the budget for the loss from this profitable business. You have to be a real artist to turn a profitable business into a 240-million-euro loss and add a 33.5 million euro topping.”

Regarding the building for judges, who knew nothing about it and do not want it, Boštjančič slyly responded to the Court of Audit’s warnings that paying from state reserves was unlawful and unreasonable: “According to my colleagues from the budget, there are no specific statements that have not already appeared in previous years’ audit reports.” What he said is true. The Court of Audit has been constantly warning that this must not be done. It must not be done because unplanned spending on projects that could be budgeted allows the government to funnel public money into private pockets—thievery. If buying a commercial building for the court in Ljubljana is an event the government cannot plan in the budget, then it is incapable of planning anything. Yet Boštjančič made a rule out of the long-clear prohibition against hasty property purchases from state reserves. Since it is always warned about, it has become normal to do it this way.

Clever. But expensive for taxpayers.

The blame then falls on the employees who allegedly misled Justice Minister Dominika Švarc Pipan, Finance Minister Boštjančič, and Prime Minister Golob, who are not at fault because they just signed the contracts and disbursed millions. Bypassing the rules because it is done repeatedly. Just as they now sign contracts and disburse tens of millions to compensate for their “freezes” to prevent private profits. Because it is always done.

To divert attention from these excesses, a new attack by the government’s people’s department and the media is launched against dual employment and private practice in healthcare. The current target is MD Medicina, located next to the Clinical Centre in Ljubljana. Protesters informed us of a grand conspiracy since this building is next to the clinical centre, allowing doctors from the University Medical Centre (UKC) who work there to avoid changing clothes and shoes. They also published a video about it.

They chose awkwardly, though, because MD Medicina is a well-known symbol of how the government saves on treating sick people by fighting against privatisation. This was highlighted in 2018 by the now-deceased surgeon Matevž Gorenšek, who performed spinal surgeries like the one Milan Kučan had in Switzerland. Actually, he could not perform them. The government prevented it, diverting money to state healthcare. People here could not receive treatments like Kučan’s because state hospitals never performed these surgeries. No one was to blame. It happens all the time here.

Young doctors responded to the government’s people’s protesters, who vehemently protested against doctors’ “private profiteering,” saying:

An additional dimension is the detail that the UKC’s corporate security service is apparently secretly recording events and informing the media immediately.

The aim is no longer competition, and the government’s intent is not to maximise the contribution of state and private healthcare for the benefit of the people.

The vision of the reform is Cuban healthcare, which in our version means you will not get what you paid for because the money will disappear to suppliers of the state healthcare monopoly, sellers of dream buildings, and NGOs funding various Jenulls to divert attention from real problems. Suppliers of state healthcare will increasingly own and fund the media that shout the loudest against private practitioners.

Moreover, there will be ever-increasing annual subsidies for the ruling coalition parties, especially the largest one led by Golob, who symbolises private profits and dual employment with Star Solar, selling electricity to the state led by the same Golob. For, you know, private profits.

Some are allowed.


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