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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » October 22, 2008
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President Seeks Healthcare Referendum
October 22, 2008   
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President Lech Kaczyński has submitted a motion to the upper house of parliament calling for a national referendum on privatization of the healthcare sector.

Kaczyński has voiced concern at the ruling coalition's plans to reform health care. He says the plans aim to privatize hospitals and will put poorer people at a disadvantage in terms of access to medical treatment.

"Healthcare is one of the most important domains of public life," Kaczyński said in a televised address to the nation Oct. 7. "The role of the state is to establish a healthcare system which is the most efficient from the point of view of citizens."

Piotr Kownacki, the head of the Office of the President, has said the referendum could take place Jan. 10-11, 2009. According to Kownacki, Polish citizens would be asked the following question: Are you in favor of the commercialization (transforming hospitals into companies run on free-market principles) of healthcare establishments, which may lead to their privatization?

The constitution allows the president to call a referendum with the backing of the Senate, where an absolute majority of votes is needed to approve such a step. At least half of senators must be present during the vote. The Senate has already received Kaczyński's motion to call the referendum. Under the law on national referendums, on receiving the president's so-called draft decision, the Senate has 14 days to pass a resolution on permitting the referendum.

But the president's plan is highly unlikely to find the support it needs to be approved, because the Senate, dominated by the governing Civic Platform (PO), is almost certain to reject the motion.
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