Space for Private Supplementary Health Insurance in Slovakia
Martin Vlachynsky // 2 August 2023
Private supplementary health insurance is considered positively by a majority of Slovak politicians and the public. Yet, in the almost two decades after the 2004 healthcare reforms, no viable supplementary health insurance product has been introduced in the Slovak market.
If everybody wants it, why hasn’t a commercial supplementary insurance scheme been created yet? What scope does Slovak legislation offer? We answered this question in our new publication, Space for Supplementary Health Insurance in Slovakia. While the full publication is available only in Slovak, we offer our international readers an English summary of the findings.
The basic aim of public health insurance is to make necessary healthcare available to all insured persons, regardless of their income or health status. Needs are endless and resources are limited, so public health insurance should only cover clinically beneficial technologies that we can afford to pay for. From the point of view of public health insurance, the ‘standard’ is healthcare that delivers value for money and does not exceed the capacity of the public budget. Anything beyond this definition : can be covered by supplementary insurance
The reasons for buying supplementary health insurance can vary. In foreign studies, the most commonly cited reasons are the need to cover specific care, to speed up access to treatment, and to have a wider choice of healthcare providers. In addition to the actual medical coverage (procedures, medicines, and devices), three factors in particular come to the fore – comfort, quality, and time. We have considered these parameters within the framework of the current Slovak legislation. In doing so, we came to the following key findings:
From a legislative standpoint, creating space for supplementary health insurance in Slovakia is easy – the policymakers basically just have to take a ‘red pen’ and cross out all the unenforceable and unenforced provisions, legal contradictions, and duplications. A new catalogue of medical procedures is excepted to be codified in Slovakia in next year, which will have the potential to further open the legal space for supplementary health insurance.
The reasons why we do not yet have supplementary health insurance in Slovakia, however, are not technical. Launching supplementary insurance is politically costly. Faced with people who have ‘paid their dues all their lives’ and now have to put up with being overtaken by someone who has paid for supplementary health insurance is difficult. It is also difficult to explain that there will be no exemptions, no double contributions, and that ‘free healthcare’ has its limits.
But it is certainly something to be tried. Commercial healthcare insurance exists in various European countries (e.g., Austria, France, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands), either in addition to (supplementary) or instead of the public system. All these countries appear to have maintained social reconciliation.
EPICENTER publications and contributions from our member think tanks are designed to promote the discussion of economic issues and the role of markets in solving economic and social problems. As with all EPICENTER publications, the views expressed here are those of the author and not EPICENTER or its member think tanks (which have no corporate view).