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Reform package could include minimum health contribution, "hamburger tax, website says

The government's package of measures to be finalized by the end of February would include a minimum health contribution on wages and extra taxes, such as an e-road toll and a so-called "hamburger tax", the website index.hu reported on Thursday.

A minimum limit would be introduced for the health insurance contribution paid by employers. Currently employers pay 3% of gross wages after an earlier fix-sum monthly contribution was phased out.

The new minimum health contribution could be between HUF 3,000-5,000, and would be payable by self-employed individuals as well.Index.hu said The measure would yield additional revenues of a few tens of billions of forints to the budget.

The electronic road toll, to be introduced from 2013, would be imposed on domestic and foreign lorries, could generate as much as HUF 100 billion in annual revenue. Hungary's largest cities could collect funding from congestion charges and higher vehicle tax.

The "hamburger tax" would be a fixed-rate special tax imposed on food and beverages unfit for a healthy diet. Revenues from the tax - projected at a few billion or possibly ten or twenty billion forints - would be channeled into the health insurance fund.

On the expenditure savings side, index.hu said that a medical review of the 400,000 disability pensioners below the retirement age could begin as early as this year, to ensure that some savings will be achieved from this source next year. Free travel for senior citizens on public transport could be eliminated, and procurement spending of the state-owned railway company MAV would be reduced.

With the health insurance fund, the aim is not only to encourage an increase of turnover in generic medications at the expense of original ones, but also to make subsidies based on the active ingredients, meaning a more expensive drug containing the same active ingredient would not receive more subsidies, the website said.

National economy minister Gyorgy Matolcsy said on January 27 that the Growth and Stability Programme must consolidate the budget by at least HUF 600 billion-650 billion by 2013, half of which is required in 2012, but some of if must be achieved in 2011.

The minister then said the government is scheduled to discuss the program on February 16 and finalize it on February 28. (Econews)