Private health expenditure in the Greek health care system: Where truth ends and the myth begins

Private health expenditure in the Greek health care system: Where truth ends and the myth begins
In Health Policy, N° 2, vol. 88, (December 2008).
Siskou, Olga; Kaitelidou, Daphne; Papakonstantinou, Vasiliki; Liaropoulos, Lycourgos. 2008. p 282-293.
Greece today has the most “privatized” health care system among EU countries. Given the country's universal coverage by a public system this may be called “the Greek paradox”. The Objective of this paper is to analyze private health payments by provider and type of service in order to bring to light the reasons for and the nature of the extraordinary private expenditure in Greece. Methods: We used a randomized countrywide sample of 1616 households. Regression analysis was used to determine the extent to which social and economic household characteristics influence the frequency of use of certain health services and the size of household payments for such services. In all statistical analyses we used the p < 0.05 level of significance. Results: Out of the total private household health expenditure (€6141 million), 66% is for outpatient services, with the largest share for dental services, absorbing 31.1% (€1912 million or 1.5% of GDP) of the total out-of-pocket health expenditure. Rural dwellers seek private outpatient care more often, because of the understaffed public primary facilities. The hospital sector absorbs less than 15% (or €884 million) of household private health expenditure. A significant part (20%) of hospital care financed privately concerns informal payments within public hospitals, an amount almost equal with formal payments in the form of cost sharing. Admissions to private hospitals are only 16% of total admissions. Our results indicate that this is a result of the political emphasis in public hospitals and of the considerably high cost of private hospital care. Conclusions: The rise in private health expenditure and the development of the private sector during the last 20 years in Greece is associated with public under financing. The gap was filled by the private sector through increased investment, mostly in upgraded amenities and new technology. Today, the complementary nature of private care in Greece is no longer disputed, but is a matter of serious concern, as it undermines the constitutionally guaranteed free access and equitable distribution of health resources.
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Social policy / Research.
Greece.
social policy, benefit, health insurance, mutual benefit society, private insurance.
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