4. Paying for services
Adequate funding for health is important to manage the excess demands on the health system. This section considers how countries are PAYING FOR COVID-19 SERVICES. Health financing describes how much is spent on health and the distribution of health spending across different service areas. The section also describes who is covered for COVID-19 testing and treatment, whether there are any notable gaps (in population coverage and service coverage), and how much people pay (if at all) for those services out-of-pocket.
4.1 Health financing
Update 13th April 2021
According to the Minister of Finance, expenditure has skyrocketed and this is mainly due to support measures to address the effects of the coronavirus on employment which amounted to € 546.5 million. COVID and its effects have turned the 2019 surplus of €325.9 million (1.5% in GDP) into a deficit of €1,059.0 million (5% in GDP) in 2020. Total expenditures during the period January-December 2020 increased by €1,029.5 million (11.5%) and amounted to €9,946.6 million compared to €8,917.1 million in the corresponding period of 2019mainly due support measures for businesses. At the same time the revenue for the same period has fallen by 3.8%.
In an information session on the pandemic in the Parliament the Health Minister said that up until September 30th 2020 a total amount of €32.4 million was paid while the total cost so far since the beginning of the pandemic amounted to €45.4 million. The Health Minister explained that the biggest part of these monies concerned the laboratory tests and the purchase and supply of PPE mainly masks. It is envisaged that the largest part of these expenses will be co-financed by the Structural Funds of the EU.
All needs for new services, created due to a pandemic, such as diagnostic tests, quarantine and hospitality facilities, purchase of services for the staffing of the contact tracing team, the Epidemiological Surveillance Unit, the Public Health Clinics etc, are reimbursed by the Ministry of Health, in some cases after negotiation and agreement with the providers. Obviously, these services will no longer be necessary when the pandemic is completely under control.
In mid-March 2020, following a decision of the Council of Ministers, the President of the Republic announced that an additional €100 million will be allocated to the health system, in order to combat the pandemic of COVID-19. This additional financing will be used to better staff the system with doctors and nurses, and for necessary medical equipment and consumables, (see more in sub-section 2.2). Some doctor recruitment has already taken place, while on the weekend of April 4-5th a special flight is expected from China with medical equipment, personal protective equipment and other consumables. Efforts have also begun to increase the number of intensive care beds, as well as to create spaces within public hospitals for reception, management and treatment of COVID-19 patients or suspected cases.
This extra €100 million funding injection, and much of the system's human and physical resources at this time are aimed at limiting the spread of the virus to the population and to ultimately to control it. Within this context, it is clear that there is complete budget re-prioritization, aiming to control the transmission of the virus and the management and treatment of the COVID-19 patients.
Update 18th April 2020
Besides the extra amount of €100 million from the state budget, a private initiative to strengthen the public health system is also underway with cash and in-kind donations (ventilators, monitors, masks and other protective material). Organizations, companies and legal entities of the public and private sectors, as well as individuals, are participating in this movement. Donations vary and include, for example, €1,330,000 from a sports betting company for the construction of a new 20-bets intensive care unit in Nicosia, €1,000,000 to the MoH by a citizen for the needs of the public health care system, and a donation of €200 euros from an eleven year old elementary schoolgirl from Paphos. In addition, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and China have donated protective equipment for the needs of health professionals. Similarly, Cyprus sent chloroquine to Israel, as well as chloroquine pills and protective material to the Turkish Cypriots residing in the occupied areas, at the request of Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı, to the President of the Republic of Cyprus.
Update 5th July
The increase in the contributions of beneficiaries, employers and government to the new health system that were planned to begin in March 1st, 2020 will start on July 1st, 2020. The contributions were maintained at their initial values as a measure of support for society and the economy, however, with the decision for the go-ahead of the second phase and the integration of hospital care in the new health system, the increase in contributions was deemed necessary.
Update 16th November 2020
In an information session on the pandemic in the Parliament the Health Minister said that up until September 30th 2020 a total amount of €32.4 million was paid while the total cost so far since the beginning of the pandemic amounts to €45.4 million. The Health Minister explained that the biggest part of the money paid concerns the laboratory tests and the purchase and supply of PPE mainly masks. It is envisaged that the largest part of these expenses will be co-financed by the Structural Funds of the EU.
Update 7th December 2020
The Ministry of Health with a relevant decree on December 4th 2020 has set the maximum charge rates for performing molecular test (PCR) and the antigen rapid test. The maximum charge rate for the molecular test (PCR) is set at €55 (plus VAT) and for rapid antigen test is set at € 25 (plus VAT). The new maximum charge rates are effective from December 5th 2020.