AK Party’s election propaganda on healthcare far from the truth

As the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party)ontinues to present improvements in the healthcare system as its leading campaign item ahead of the June 7 parliamentary election, a new report has revealed that the reality of the healthcare system is not as bright as claimed by the government.
Turkey has undeniably seen great improvements to its healthcare system over the past decade, mainly due to a number of reforms carried out by the government during the early years of its rule that made health services accessible for larger segments of society.
Those reforms included a new national insurance scheme, implemented in 2007, which merged three previous insurance regimes, and legal reforms that have allowed private hospitals to work closely with — and contract out to — public hospitals.
However, an increasing number of flaws that have emerged in the healthcare system over the years have turned this bright picture upside down. A recent report prepared by the Turkish Doctorsand’ Union (TTB) has placed a spotlight on the AK Partyand’s practices in the healthcare system in the past 13 years, highlighting that the items listed in the AK Partyand’s election propaganda as landmark reforms are far from the truth.
One such claim by the ruling party is that everyone in Turkey benefits from public health insurance.
The government introduced a nationwide public health insurance scheme back in 2012. The state covers each individualand’s health expenses until he or she graduates from university, according to the scheme, termed the General Health Insurance (GSS), which requires citizens to pay monthly social security premiums after the age of 25.
However, millions of people, including those working in part-time jobs who cannot pay their premiums, those who are not informed about the requirement to pay these premiums and the unemployed who cannot benefit from unemployment benefits do not receive these public health services.
Few say they are aware of the requirement that enables one to be exempt, which the state calls the and”income test.and”
According to the law, the state should pay the premiums of those citizens whose income is below a third of the minimum wage. The state considers those with an income over TL 400 as and”richand” and requires them to pay up to TL 288 monthly premiums. Those who fail to pay these premiums are both indebted to the state and cannot benefit from health services.
The GSS system has not yielded the desired results, with the state having to hold millions of people responsible for debts without checking if they are employed or not. Today, tens of thousands of them are jobless university graduates with premium debts to the state.
Additionally, regularly paying your premiums is still not enough for a citizen covered by the GSS to benefit from and”free healthcare services,and” as claimed by the government ahead of the elections. People are charged 10 different types of contribution fees such as examination payment, pillbox payment, etc., when they pay for medical treatment and medication.
According to data by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, citizens paid a total amount of TL 3.5 billion for these extra fees in 2014.
The government also says in its election campaign that those who are covered by the GSS can also receive health services from private hospitals. The reality is that they can, but only after paying large amounts of money.
A regulation approved in October of 2013 increased the percentage of extra fees charged by private health institutions from 90 to 200 percent.
According to the regulation, these institutions can increase the maximum fee charged for a service to 200 percent of the standard fee. Within the scope of the new regulation, around 1,200 Class A health institutions charge their patients the maximum in extra fees.
With the regulation, payments not received by the Social Security Institution (SGK) from private hospitals through the Health Budget Law (SUT) are taken from patients.
A report recently published by the Istanbul Chamber of Public Accountants and Financial Aisors (iSMMMO) revealed that citizensand’ healthcare spending in 2014 rose 85 percent since 2009, which is interpreted by analysts as the shifting of the burden of healthcare expenditures from the state to citizensand’ shoulders.
The iSMMMO report reveals that the bulk of expenditure on healthcare services has gradually shifted away from the state to citizens. According to its figures, spending on healthcare by citizens increased from TL 8.1 billion in 2009 to TL 14 billion in the last 12 months and is expected to reach TL 15 billion at the end of the year. The annual figures were TL 11.7 billion in 2012 and TL 13.2 billion in 2013.
h2Air ambulances did not fly for Muharremh2 Air ambulances introduced by the government are among major election campaign items of the AK Party, which the Health Ministry says serves citizens.
However, the tragic case of Muharrem Tai, a one-and-a-half-year-old boy from the Gandurpinar district of Van province who died on Feb. 1 of last year, shows otherwise.
Muharrem fell ill with a fever and cough. Muharremand’s family waited four days for medical treatment while his condition deteriorated. His parents called the 112 emergency hotline to request for an ambulance but failed to receive a response. Muharremand’s father carried his son to the hospital on foot as local roads were closed due to heavy snow. The father recorded the journey on his cellphone. When the recording appeared in the media it sparked public outrage.
Just one month after the incident, reports emerged that Health Minister Mehmet Manduezzinoilu had been using air ambulances during his local election campaign.
h2Corruption in health sectorh2 The ruling party also claims that its 13-years rule eliminated corruption in the health sector. However, according to a recent report by the National Police Department, the health sector is still at the top of the corruption list. Among 258 anti-corruption operations carried out in 2013, 59 targeted corruption schemes within the health sector.
The government denies allegations that it favors the private sector in healthcare services but figures show that private hospital owners were the ones who benefited greatly from the AK Partyand’s healthcare reforms. During the AK Party rule, the number of state-owned hospitals increased by 10 percent while the number of private hospitals increased by 102 percent.
Similarly, the number of patients applying to state hospitals increased by 153 percent during the past 13 years while this figure was 1,152 percent for private hospitals.
A controversial performance system, introduced by a law enacted in 2004, regulating the salaries of Turkish health personnel based on their performance, has also proven to be ineffective.
According to main opposition Republican Peopleand’s Party (CHP) izmir deputy Aytun andciray, the system, which has long been criticized by sector representatives, has impacted medical ethics even though the Ministry of Health has made amendments to the legislation on multiple occasions. The deputy claimed the number of surgeries and Caesarian operations has risen by upwards of 80 percent and that the number of surgeries conducted at private hospitals and medical faculties has skyrocketed by 193.1 percent, also adding that an unnecessarily high number of X-rays and tomography scans have been performed in hospitals.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman