Private health care is miles ahead of public care, and Hungarians are choosing the first option in increasing numbers despite the high cost of services. Hungarians could cover these costs through a health fund, but this option has not yet caught on among them, despite its many advantages.
Hungarians spend twice as much on private health care out of their own pockets as the EU average, but only a fraction of this is paid through a health fund, according to an article in Világgazdaság. The number of members of Hungarian health insurance funds is less than one million, but membership is worthwhile for everyone, especially because the contributions could also be used to cover rising healthcare costs.
Health fund contributions are mainly used to finance pharmaceutical expenditure, which costs members almost 20% less because of the tax credits that can be claimed on contributions. Although this 20 percent interest rate is more for value preservation due to inflation, there are many other benefits of health fund membership.
A further problem, in addition to low membership, is the high number of passive members who do not use their capital, while the value of out-of-pocket private health care expenditure is increasing. Many people also oppose health funds because it means opening another account and using another plastic card. These problems could easily be addressed by digitalization and by strengthening online access, but in-app use is not yet fully in place.
An additional advantage of a health fund is that the savings can be used to pay off a home loan as well, saving HUF 80-85 thousand (around EUR 220) per year.
However, many people are unaware of this feature and do not know how much they can use their savings for. Only a few people know also that gluten-free products can be purchased from the account, as can women’s health products.
The most popular of the self-help services is the maternity allowance – when a child is born, one million forints of one’s own savings can be withdrawn from the account and used for any purpose without any restrictions.
According to an expert from financial website Biztosdöntés.hu, it is not usability that is lacking, but the necessary information to start a dynamic growth in the number of members. In inflationary periods such as the current one, there is a better chance of this happening than at other times, when the focus on rationalizing expenditure is more intense.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, in many cases Hungarians are choosing private health care over public health care. In connection with that, the results of the Premium Outpatient Care Quality Index were published in February, in which patients rated public care at 71 and private care at 84 points out of a 100.
Gyula Kincses, President of the Hungarian Chamber of Doctors, said that patients were dissatisfied not with doctors but with the availability of public outpatient services. 11% of those who used public state care said they could not book the treatment they needed in advance, while 26% said they could book one or two weeks later and 36% much later than they would have liked. 40% of respondents waited more than 30 minutes longer than the appointment they had booked in advance, and 9% of patients considered public practices to be run-down.
In contrast, none of the respondents rated private practices as run-down and the proportion of patients who were unable to book an appointment in time was much lower.
While there is a need for expansion in private healthcare, this is limited by a shortage of specialists, but professionals are hopeful of fresh graduates and better salaries on offer. This year, half of the large private providers in Budapest have not raised prices, but they still needed to raise salaries to keep their staff. In private healthcare, the average outpatient fee is currently 25,000 forints (EUR 67), and it has also been found that the majority of people who consult private specialists are growing.
The research shows that the younger and more affluent age group is the main group choosing private providers. This is primarily because a visit to a private specialist offers more of what really matters to them: the convenience features that precede actual care (public care scores 56, private 78) and a more human, patient-centered doctor-patient encounter (public index 72, private 84).
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