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New Hungarian health minister sworn in

Hungary's new health minister Ágnes Horváth on Monday swore in after parliament's health committee approved her appointment.

The committee voted 13 to nine in favor of appointing Horváth, who was last week nominated by junior coalition party the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ). Horváth, a former state secretary in the health ministry, takes over from Lajos Molnár, who two weeks ago resigned amid rumors of a split between the SZDSZ and the senior coalition member, the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP).

While Molnár himself did not elaborate on his reasons for leaving, press reports suggest that he left after the socialists refused to back reforms to the health insurance system. Horváth said she would continue with the reforms that had been started, and both coalition parties seem keen to seal agreement on the reform. Hungary is in the middle of attempting to reform the healthcare system, and Molnár has been at the center of the efforts since taking up the job after last April's general elections.

A fee for doctor's visits has been instituted, the hospital network has been restructured and almost 10,000 beds are set for closure. The healthcare reform is part of an austerity package aimed at lowering the highest budget deficit in percentage terms in the EU. Horváth at 34 is the latest in a line of young ministers to take the helm in Hungary. Minister for Economy and Transport János Kóka, also the leader of the SZDSZ, is 34, while Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány is 45. (