TALLINN – The Estonian government does not plan to provide additional funding to the healthcare system at this point, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told the Riigikogu when answering questions after a presentation on the progress made on the objectives set in the national development plan for the period until 2035.
The problem was highlighted by opposition Center Party MP Tonis Molder, according to whom poor availability of medical services compared to other European countries is not consistent with the goals of the development plan when it comes to the advancement of public health. According to the document, Estonia's healthcare spending equals 6.7 percent of gross domestic product, which is 3 percentage points less than the EU average. The MP said that as a result of insufficient financing, the Health Insurance Fund will run a deficit of around 200 million euros in a few years and medical services will be even less available in Estonia.
"Treatment waiting times also became longer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when access to health services decreased. Now the gap is being bridged. The budget of the Health Insurance Fund is linked to social tax receipts. It is good to see that more social tax has been collected than in the past because people's wages have risen and employment has been at a pretty good level. So the need for additional funding is not so acute at the moment. Slowly but surely the queues are becoming shorter," the prime minister explained.
Kallas added that improving access to medical services does not depend only on additional funding.
"It is important that, in addition to money, we also have the people who provide these healthcare services," the head of government said.
Kallas stressed that Estonia is one of the few countries in the world where, apart from dental care, most health care services are free of charge for the patient. She noted that in the form discussions, there has been talk about increasing patients' own contribution, for example, in the use of the ambulance service.
"The ambulance service is very expensive, but people actually misuse it. Paramedics in the ambulance service I know say that people often call the ambulance to change a patch. If they received a bill for it, maybe they wouldn't do it," Kallas said. She added, however, that there were no serious plans to bill patients for ambulance services at the moment.
"Eesti 2035" is a strategic management tool that allows coordinating the country's long-term strategic planning and financial management, taking into account the possibilities of the state's finances. The plan was adopted in spring 2021.