Greece Offers Two Million Uninsured Free Hospital Care

Some two million people in Greece who don't have health insurance will get free hospitalization if they get a referral from a doctor in the health network PEDY.

ATHENS – Greek Health Minister Minister Adonis Georgiadis, who has presided over deep cuts in medicine and health care, said some two million people without insurance will get free hospitalization if they get a referral from a doctor in the health network PEDY.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, whose New Democracy Conservatives took a beating to the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) in European Parliament election, said he wants to correct what he called “injustices” caused by austerity he imposed, including people being cut off from health care.

Patients who need operations, for example, can’t get them unless they are emergency situations, and either have to pay or suffer.

After meeting with the heads of the country’s public hospitals, Georgiadis said the government’ no longer wants to exclude people from free health care although he had championed budget cuts that did that.

“As the country emerges from the crisis, injustices will be redressed,” Georgiadis said, referring to a lingering economic crisis worsened by pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings that have put 1.4 million people out of work and caused deep poverty.

Despite having a Socialist health care system, Greece does not provide care for people who don’t have insurance unless it is an emergency authorized at a hospital.

According to the new system, which Georgiadis indicated would start operating in June, all citizens will be able to get free healthcare at public hospitals by presenting a referral from a PEDY-affiliated doctor.

Three-member medical committees are to be set up at all hospitals to approve these referrals and certify that the patients are in genuine need of medical care. It wasn’t indicated whether that cumbersome process would delay admissions. Last year Georgiadis had to withdraw a 25 euro hospital admission free after being blistered by critics who said he was heartless.

PEDY clinics already offer free healthcare to the uninsured with the current initiative aimed at extending that service to all hospitals in the national health service.

Georgidadis, defending previous health care cuts, said Greece couldn’t afford to provide free health care. He didn’t say why it can now.

Georgiadis and members of the new healthcare network are also in talks aimed at providing uninsured citizens with free medicine as otherwise they would get free hospital care but not the drugs they might need when they leave.

The only way for uninsured Greeks to currently get medicines, apart from buying the drugs, is to visit free surgeries run by municipalities or a medicine bank run by the Athens Medical Association and the Federation of Greek Pharmaceutical Companies.