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Czech government wants direct payments in healthcare

The Czech centre-right coalition plans to introduce direct charges in healthcare in order to rein in excessive doctor visits and medicine use, Health Minister Tomas Julinek told reporters on Thursday.

According to the plan, patients would pay 30 koruny ($1.5) per prescription and doctor consultation, 60 koruny ($3) for a day of a hospital stay and 90 koruny ($4.5) for visiting an emergency room. Children under three years of age or people seeking preventive medical checks would be among those exempt from the charges. The reform would set an annual limit of 5,000 koruny ($250) per patient, but the cap would not apply to emergency room and hospital stay payments.

The planned healthcare, welfare and tax reforms introduced during past two weeks are set to test the weak Czech coalition. The government has yet to find support for its proposals in the lower house of parliament, where the government can only count on a slim majority with the help of two renegade opposition deputies. Opposition Social Democrats have attacked the government's healthcare plan as anti-social. Social Democratic leader Jiri Paroubek said earlier that his party would abolish direct payments, if returned to power. (