Hungary, eyeing euro, weighs drug cuts, private insurance plans
Hungarian drugmaker Richter Gedeon Nyrt will be waiting to find out how the proposed spending cuts will affect profit, said Zsuzsa Beke, a company spokeswoman. Richter CEO Erik Bogsch sat on the committee that advised the government on the plans. „We think that there will be some decisions regarding health care and the budget, but we don't know what,” Beke said. Subsidy cuts and other measures imposed in July are expected to dent Richter's pretax profit by Ft 1.8 billion this year, the company said in a June 14 statement. Egis Nyrt, the second-biggest Hungarian medicine maker, said profit could be hurt by as much as Ft 1.7 billion in the fiscal year that ends in September 2007. Proposals such as introducing fees for doctors' visits may not slow consumption, Bonte-Friedheim said. Hungarian doctors already demand „tips” from patients that are typically about 5,000 forint, he said. „A Ft 500 additional fee is unlikely to be a powerful deterrent,” he said.
The government has been soliciting comments on its health-care package, known as the Green Paper, through a toll-free number and Internet forums. The establishment of an insurance-based health-care system is an issue of „primary concern,” State Secretary for Health Ágnes Horváth said at an Aug. 23 press conference. The public is split on the government's proposal to introduce a fee for doctor's visits, she said. Hungarian insurance industry group MaBISz estimates the domestic health-insurance market may be worth as much as Ft 150 billion in annual premium income. At present, the state's National Health Insurance Fund insures virtually all Hungarians, whether they pay into it or not. The Hungarian Socialist Party, the senior coalition member, opposes private health insurance in the short term, preferring to revamp the state-monopoly system. The budget deficit may force the Socialists to abandon their position. „Competition between insurers could help balance the state insurance fund's books, and could halt the necessity of fund transfers from the state,” the government's draft document said. (Bloomberg)
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