Greek Health Minister: "Cancer Not Urgent Unless In Final Stages"

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"If you're sick in Greece, you have an expiration date," is the cheery message from Greece. As WaPo reports, while economists proclaim Europe is turning the corner, a look across the still-bleak landscape, from Greece to Spain, Ireland to Portugal, suggests a painful aftermath, where the plight of millions of Europeans is worsening even as the financial crisis passes with public health being hit in the most troubled corners of the European Union. Greece is the hardest hit and while Greek Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis is attempting to create a fund to help the most acute cases, his concluding remarks are chillingly blunt, "illnesses like cancer are not considered urgent, unless you are in the final stages."

 

Via WaPo,

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In Spain, the government has suspended free care for illegal immigrants, begun charging seniors for a portion of their prescriptions, cut aid to the mentally ill and moved to raise co-payments for medications, prosthetics and some emergency services.

 

In Ireland, state assistance to the disabled has been slashed, and new rounds of cuts this year will remove some medications from the list of drugs covered by public health care while new reviews are being launched to determine whether those receiving free care are truly eligible.

 

Nowhere, however, has the impact been as dramatic as in Greece. Bloated, inefficient and plagued by corruption, the massive public-health system became a top target for cuts, with total health spending slashed by more than 25 percent since 2009, and more cuts are on the way this year

 

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Stung by cutbacks in needle-exchange programs for intra­venous drug users, HIV rates have soared, Greek health officials say, forcing the government to relaunch moth-balled programs last year.

 

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The biggest challenge is a massive increase in the uninsured.

 

Greece offers state-subsidized insurance for the equivalent of several hundred dollars per month. But an unemployment rate that tops 27 percent has left hundreds of thousands without the means to pay. At the same time, eligibility for free indigent care has been tightened, while co-payments for those with insurance have increased.

 

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Greek Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis said that the government is attempting to aid the uninsured, creating a $17.6 million fund for the most acute cases, using money seized in a crackdown on tax evasion. He hopes the fund will be dramatically boosted by the end of the year

 

But Greeks, he said, must also understand that the public-heath system was broken before the crisis by years by mismanagement and corruption. The state was sometimes paying three to four times more than other European countries for certain prescription drugs, with middle men, doctors and pharmacies pocketing the difference. If hospitals are facing shortages, he said, it is because they are having a hard time adhering to more reasonable budgets.

 

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Georgiadis said that emergency cases are still being treated at public hospitals irrespective of insurance status. “But,” he said, “illnesses like cancer are not considered urgent, unless you are in the final stages.”

Welcome to the recovery...