RIGA, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- Latvian lawmakers passed a health care financing law on Thursday that envisages the creation of a mandatory health insurance system, local media reported.
Starting in 2019, the full range of government-funded health care services will be available only to those who are paying their social taxes, as well as several government-insured groups, whereas the rest of the population will have to pay an annual contribution, or the so-called health tax, to receive access to health care.
The minimum health services, which will be provided to all patients whether they have been paying the social tax or not, will include emergency medical assistance, obstetrical care, and general practitioner services, as well as government-funded drugs and medical equipment.
Insured patients, or those paying the social tax, will be entitled to the full range of government-funded health services.
Those who do not pay the social tax nor are insured by the government will still be able to insure themselves by paying one percent of the minimum wage next year, three percent of the minimum wage in 2019, and five percent of the minimum wage in 2020.
The government will provide health insurance to children, orphans, unemployed persons and pensioners, among others.
The Latvian government has also committed to raising health care funding to four percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020, according to the new legislation.
Latvian |Health Minister Anda Caksa said earlier the health tax might reach an estimated 15 to 20 million euros (18 to 24 million U.S. dollars) in 2018.
Latvia's social tax rate will be raised by one percentage point next year to provide the necessary funding to the health sector.
Caksa said the hike in social contributions might provide an additional 85 million euros for the health sector.
Two political parties -- the Movement For and the Progressives - have already issued an appeal to Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis, asking him not to promulgate the law. The parties warned that 300,000 residents of Latvia may lose access to health care as a result of the reform.
Movement For leader Daniels Pavluts said in a letter to Vejonis that it would be unfair and wrong to deny health care services to people in an attempt to reduce tax evasion.
The reform's greatest risk is that it can exclude a large part of the population from the regular health system, as many of these people will not be able to insure themselves, which in turn may result in serious threats to public health, Pavluts warned.