Italians are being forced to fork out billions to pay for their healthcare as a result of cuts and new user charges imposed on the country’s public health service – and the problem is set to deteriorate further when €4 billion of new charges are introduced.
Italians spent €30.6 billion over the period 2007-2010, an increase of 8%, according to a report by Censis, a socio-economic research body ‘Quale futuro per le risorse in sanita’? (What future for health spending). And the gap between real health needs and what the public health system is providing is €17 billion.
While public spending on drugs has been cut by 3.5%, private spending has increased 10.7% over the three year period on a hike in prescription charges which will amount to significantly more than €1 billion by the end of the year. Italians are faced with €4 billion worth of new charges for accident and emergency, diagnosis appointments and to see a specialist.
Healthcare is worse in the regions where the cuts have been deepest according to the research, with 38% saying services had worsened in regions where specific spending reduction programmes (Piano di Rientro) are underway, against 24% where they were not. Overall, just under a third of people surveyed said their local public health service had deteriorated, with the proportion rising to 39% in the poorer south of the country.
The increase in private expenditure by Italians is not only due to recent budget cuts. There are sectors of public healthcare that have always been considered inadequate, like dentistry, where patients have been paying up out their own pocket in 95% of cases, or a massive Euros 12 billion in total.
For lesser complaints, family and work pressures mean Italians will go private rather than face lengthening waiting times in the public health system.
‘Across the board cuts and management by bean counters has weakened out national health service and threatens our constitutional right to heath,’ says Vera Lamonica, health policy chief of the CGIL trade union central.
The union is calling for a new ‘health pact’ that repairs the damage caused by the ‘ logic of the recession’ which sees health spending as a cost instead of a factor in promoting economic development.
‘We need a good, public and universal healthcare,’ says Lamonica.