[Marxism] NYT: Greece's Costly Health Care Craze

Shalva Eliava shalva.eliava at outlook.com
Wed Jul 22 21:47:29 MDT 2015

My last post of the night (and probably my last one on Greece for a while). What boggles my mind is that indeed, Greece could change a lot of things for the better and Syriza could have spearheaded many useful, non-recession inducing "reforms" on its own, yet did precious little in this regard. Varoufakis claimed in his interview with New Statesman that the Troika forbid them from taking any prior actions (which he described as them laying a trap for later), but I think his claim is somewhat undercut by all the legislation Syriza continued to pass throughout the five months of bailout talks (hence why the Troika demanded that as part of the new agreement Syriza amend or rescind all laws impacting state expenditures and/or the reform actions stipulated in the previous bailout). 

Frankly, if Tsipras and co were going to accede to Troika demands for cuts and reforms they should have at least used it as an opportunity to take on the military, church, and shipping industry where there's lots of money and assets to be liquidated/redistributed. They could have been creative in other areas too, like by "privatizing" a lot of the highly coveted SOEs and utilities by simply converting them into Mondragon-style worker co-ops with a public mandate (guaranteed through a small government ownership stake perhaps). 

Certainly they could have done something to lay the basis for fixing their health care system (hell why not invite old school NHS administrators and Cuban health care system experts to serve on an international commission to revamp the whole rotten edifice?):

"Every stakeholder was benefiting from the system, except one: the patient. In addition to the official costs of care and drugs, there was another price people had to pay: a fee known as “the envelope.” Surgeons receiving meager government paychecks were and still are routinely paid a large supplement by the patient’s family. The government turns a blind eye to this illegal practice, preferring to avoid addressing the disparity between low doctor pay and high systemic spending.

This is no surprise, since much of the money flowing into the system remains unaccounted for. A 2013 survey of Greek views on corruption in the health care system by the European Commission found that 75 percent believe bribery and the abuse of power for personal gain are widespread. The report concluded that limited transparency was a root cause. Public hospitals, poorly managed by ever-changing 
political appointees, rarely balance their budgets. The deficits are made up (with borrowed money) by the central government.

...Fear of default has forced Greece to slash health spending. The various bailout plans offered to Greece have overlooked a root cause of the country’s troubles: the urgent need for health care reform. Instead, austerity programs have set arbitrary spending restrictions that worsen already limited access, undermine patient safety, and are igniting a mass exodus of qualified doctors and other health care providers. Since the debt crisis hit, 850 clinics have closed, 30,000 health workers have been laid off, and 11 hospitals have shut down, according to union officials. 

The government needs to listen to the doctors and other experts demanding an end to waste and corruption. Dedicated medical professionals want to replace transient political leaders now running hospitals with qualified managers, and they want more stringent oversight of medical reimbursements."


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