Eu austerity policy is a challenge for health

Medical experts from the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies examined the effect of the financial and economic crisis on the healthcare systems of European countries. According to the report, certain developments, such as a lower risk of accidents due to a decline in traffic, can be attributed to the economic downturn itself. However, the key factor in determining how the crisis affects a country's health care is how the state responds. Only the combination of economic shock, austerity policy and dismantling of the social security systems led to the deterioration that can now be observed.

In many member states, either services have been cancelled or the fees for medical care have been increased in recent years. As a result, the long-term decline in suicides since 2007 has reversed. The demonstrable spread of infectious diseases in countries particularly affected by spending cuts and rising unemployment, such as Greece, Spain and Portugal, is also dramatic.

In Greece, for example, the number of HIV infections rose sharply, mainly because drug prevention was cut back. For the first time, he said, there have even been cases of malaria. In addition, hospital costs have been cut by 15 percent in the last two years, which has meant, among other things, the elimination of thousands of hospital beds. The situation is particularly dramatic because access to adequate medical treatment is noticeably hampered by limited financial resources. There is a threat of a two-class medical society.

Yet things could be different: The fact that the exceptional country of Iceland has done much better than the eurozone countries in coping with the financial crisis (here) is also reflected in the health care system, the study says. Citizens of the Nordic island nation twice refused to approve IMF austerity policies in referendums. Instead, continued investment in the health care system and social security for citizens. The researchers point out that no or very little health effects of the financial crisis have been found. Although the financial crisis was the worst in Iceland's history in terms of size relative to GDP, neither the suicide rate nor the number of cases of illness due to substance abuse increased.

The EU Commission, whose legal duty it would actually be to monitor the effects of EU policies, the authors accuse of simply looking the other way. Instead, they would even be eager to make proposals to national health ministries for further budget cuts. The behavior of the Commission and individual EU states resembles the cover-up tactics of the tobacco industry, say health experts.

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