In recent days I have spent some time in Central and Eastern Europe. Across the region private healthcare is growing on the back of an ever expanding middle class. After decades of huge Socialist-era failure the whole region is beginning to see a burgeoning range of private health options and brands emerge.

Indeed, I was fascinated to learn that following the manifest failings of the Slovak Republic’s state healthcare system, a system that had all the historic failures of the UK’s NHS, citizens have now been given the opportunity to insure and self fund for key elements of their healthcare.

A law passed in early 2003 means that healthcare providers can now charge Sk 20 per doctor visit, Sk 20 per drug prescription, Sk 20 per kilometre travelled in an ambulance, and Sk 50 per day spent in hospital. While patients continue to receive some medications ‘free of charge’ – many can now be purchased privately.

While Slovakia has more than a hundred hospitals and mental health centres I found it nevertheless unfortunate that private companies are still precluded from obtaining a majority stake in larger hospitals. As a consequence the private sector in provision is unnecessarily limited – for the time being at least – to primary care and the smaller hospitals.

 

The great thing about Slovakia is that having introduced a range of radical market reforms across several areas of activity – of which healthcare is simply one – the economy is now set to grow at more than 8 per cent a year. Having introduced a highly competitive flat tax regime of just 19 per cent, the country looks to be well on the road to prosperity.

Unlike many state health systems in Western Europe (the UK, Spain and Italy), Slovakia looks as if it is well on the road to developing a sustainable health market that is rooted in the principles of consumer led quality.

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