The Czech Republic’s Health Minister, Vlastimil Válek, is planning a significant overhaul of the country’s healthcare system. The proposed legislation, due to be submitted in mid-2024, aims to incentivize individuals to take better care of their health. However, experts warn that these changes may inadvertently deepen societal disparities.
Válek’s proposed reforms include introducing supplementary insurance for premium healthcare services, central procurement of medicines, and rewards for responsible patients. “The bonus is the state’s thank you to a citizen who saves huge money by participating in preventative screenings and programs,” asserts Válek. He believes patients’ primary benefit will be an improved quality of life in older age.
The measures are designed to tackle pressing health challenges in the Czech Republic. One-fifth of the country’s population is obese, and a third die from heart and vascular diseases. Politicians are, therefore, keen to encourage citizens to bear greater responsibility for their health. As part of the scheme, each insured individual would have a personal account to accumulate points for preventative care, later redeemable for various rewards and contributions, such as spa treatments or dental hygiene services.
However, Jakub Hlávka, head of the Institute for Health Economics, Policy, and Innovation at Masaryk University, argues that the plan might not be as straightforward as it seems. “Bonuses and maluses, if set up incorrectly, could harm public health, especially the health status of the socially weakest,” warns Hlávka.
The Czech government has also included the option of supplementary health insurance in its policy manifesto and has no plans to abandon it. According to Senator Roman Kraus (ODS), this will accelerate a patient’s journey through the system. However, critics warn that these proposals could shift the responsibility for the healthcare system’s poor operation onto the patients, likely leading to deepening societal inequalities.