The basic free check up program, the most criticized incentive by the opposition and the most alleged one for corruption
Tirana, 25 January 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Edison Kurani
The Albanian government says that the free check up (the basic check up program), is saving society 125 million USD a year and prevents 45 early deaths a year.
Thanas Goga, advisor at the Ministry of Health, explains why the early discovery of illnesses, except for saving lives, also has economic benefits.
According to him, this checks up also saves money for the health service. He says that these are the results of the international experience in relation to early diagnosis and prevention.
“Based on data coming from world experience, for instance, from the cost-benefit analysis of NHS (British National Health Service), put into Albanian context, with PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) as exchange rate, it results that the Free Check Up Program for the ages 40-65 years old, will save on healthcare expenses around 125 million USD in 10 years and will prevent 450 early deaths”, Goga said.
Meanwhile, he explains: “Saving will first of all be in the form of the low cost through which the private sector offers this service. Secondly, as a result of the prevention of serious and expensive illnesses and thirdly by offering this service through the family doctor, which has been a service entirely lacking in the primary health care”.
A basic check up assesses the health risk for seven of the most important health issues for any citizen: They are: 1) Arterial Hypertension; 2) Obesity’ 3) Smoking; 4) Cholesterol; 5) Poor diet; 6) Physical inactivity; 7) Use of alcohol.
Everything that is identified during the check up is registered in the health electronic file and based on the health risk, it is communicated and the process of risk management kicks off.
Free check-up, the most criticized incentive by the opposition and the most alleged one for corruption
The Albanian opposition says that it’s unforgivable and unacceptable to grant concessionary agreements for all the chains of the health system. MP Albana Vokshi says that “doctors and nurses are the only ones who have not been granted on concession”.
Stopping on the free check up, Vokshi says that the government gave 120 million euros to a businesswoman, “of course, as a transit way to the pockets of Prime Minister Edi Rama”.
The businesswoman in question is iolma Nushi, known in Albania as distributor of several known cigarette brands. The opposition denounces that Vilma Nushi’s company has won the government’s tender.
Vokshi says that “the tender was won by a consortium which had no experience in the health sector and which has a conflict of interest, because it advertises and sells alcoholic beverages and cigarettes, which damage health and also, the offer made by this consortium was higher”.
According to Vokshi, it’s a paradox that the lab’s license was issued by the National Center of Licensing for the winning company, only two days prior to the closing date for the tender applications.
The opposition says that such concession is unprecedented. “120 million euros for an experience never heard before in Europe or the world”.
What is the true amount of the concession?
Thanas Goga says that the total cost of the program is expected to be 64 million USD in 10 years. Meanwhile, total benefits of the program are expected to be 189 million USD. Thus, net saving for 10 years will be 125 million USD.
Vokshi MP insists that the total fund is 120 million USD.
For the check up of a person from the age of 40 to the age of 64, the Health Insurance Fund pays to the contractor 15 euros. The check up in the public system costs around 40 euros, while in the private sector it costs around 60 euros.
Must the check up service be granted on concession?
The World Health Organization has advised countries not to grant such concessions without first taking a number of steps or preliminary measures.
Denmark has recently decided to apply it, but in a project which is paid by an insurance company, not by the government, in a small region of 10 thousand people and after four years, once it sees the results, it will look into the possibility of applying it all over Denmark.
But what is truly happening with the check up concession?
The opposition calls it a failure. “Although for the second year in a row, Rama’s friend has been receiving the payment in advance, the check up was only carried out by 10% of the age group for which it was meant”, Vokshi said.
The government has other figures
Current population from the age of 40 to 65 is around 1 million people. It is officially said that one fifth of this category has conducted this check up. Gago explains: “Once it was launched on 1 April 2015 and after a two month consolidation period, from June to December 2015, the check up was carried out by around 210 thousand people, on average 30 thousand people a month. In the years to come, around 43 thousand people a month are expected to carry out the check up”.
The opposition evaluates the work of the concessionary agreement
In an analysis that the democrat MP, Albana Vokshi, makes to the process of free check up, she says that the check up is made through the infrastructure and equipment of health centers and with the staff of the health services. “The work is done by nurses and staff paid by the state and our taxes. The winning company should have opened 18 labs and so far, only three have opened, while for the remaining 15, only the name has been purchased and their tests are brought to Tirana”.
According to Vokshi, “the only thing that the company does is the taxi service which collects the samples with the vehicles used to distribute tobacco, the primary business of the company”.
In this point, the opposition considers the concession as an “outrageous scandal, which not only doesn’t serve to the citizens, but also becomes a great threat for their health”.
The sides have different stances
The Democratic Party has demanded Rama to withdraw from this concession. Meanwhile, the government says that the process is going very well.
“Figures so far show that 18% of people who have carried out this check up, suffer from arterial high blood pressure without knowing it. Meanwhile, around 4% of patients who suffered from diabetes, didn’t know that they had this illness”, Mr. Goga says.
Meanwhile, several citizens raise their questions: “I don’t understand why other money was supposed to be spent, 120 million USD for free check up for people from the age of 40 to 65, when it is known that all Albanians of these ages are at work, insured and they can receive this services in any state health center or hospital”, says a 48 year old woman from Tirana, a teacher who says that she hasn’t yet done this check up. /ibna/