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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » January 30, 2008
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'White Summit' Brainstorms Healthcare Reform
January 30, 2008   
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Government officials, parliamentarians, employers, trade union leaders and physicians gathered for a debate in Warsaw Jan. 21 to discuss ways of reforming Poland's ailing healthcare system.

The meeting, billed as a "white summit," was organized by Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Health Minister Ewa Kopacz and grouped officials representing the president, local government and parliamentary committees on health.

Tusk proposed that more such meetings be held over the next two months at two or three-weekly intervals. In between these debates, special task forces should work on the healthcare reform, Tusk said.

After the meeting, Tusk said that "patients have every right to expect better care, while healthcare employees have the right to expect fair pay." The government needs a few months to come up with legislation to reform the health service, Tusk said. He appealed for "peace" during this time, "not for the government's but for the patients' sake." He also said that he was taking personal responsibility for a set of bills designed to reform the system that have already been drafted by groups of deputies and submitted to the lower house of parliament, the Sejm.

"By the end of 2008, we will eliminate contradictions and inaccuracies in the laws regulating the healthcare system," Kopacz said, adding that the Sejm had already received draft laws on the protection of patients' individual and collective rights, on supplementary private health insurance, and on healthcare centers. This last proposal seeks to allow hospitals to be transformed into commercial-law companies. Bills containing detailed regulations on the proposed transformations will be submitted by the end of February, Kopacz said.

Kopacz added that by the end of January the government planned to finish work on a detailed list of health services available to patients. The list, referred to as a "basket of medical services," will be made up of four parts, Kopacz said. These will be a "basket of non-refundable services," or procedures for which patients would have to pay 100 percent of the cost; a "basket of partially refunded services;" a "negative basket," or a list of procedures that the ministry believes should not be available in Poland at all; and a "basket of refundable services" that would be paid for from public funds. Once work on the list is completed, it will be submitted to the Sejm for review.

In related legislative measures, work on a law on emergency medical services will be completed in the third quarter of the year, Kopacz said, while the fourth quarter will bring the end of work on a bill to split the National Health Fund, which oversees healthcare system finances, into several regional funds. But these laws would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2010, Kopacz said. She added that the market would open to private health insurers as of Jan. 1, 2012.
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