Prague, June 25 (CTK) – The abolition of patients’ regulatory fees in the Czech Republic is more expensive than originally expected since it has led to a steep rise in the number of visits to doctors as well as a higher consumption of prescribed medicines, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes Thursday.

Some 4.5 billion crowns are allocated from the state budget to compensate hospitals, doctors’ surgeries and pharmacies for the financial losses because of the fees’ abolition. However, the rising number of patients causes additional costs.

Health insurance companies have put these costs at one billion crowns by the end of the year alone, Pavel Frnka, director for strategies of the Czech Industrial Health Insurance Company, told LN.

Almost all segments of health care have reported an increased demand, LN writes.

“It was a populist, useless and uneconomic step to abolish the fees. The availability of care has been worsening for those who really need it,” Vaclav Smatlak, chairman of the General Practitioners’ Association, told LN.

The billions of crowns spent on the compensation of the 30-crown fees in surgeries or per prescription could have been spent more efficiently, for instance, on the extension of costly biological treatment and hospice care, Smatlak added.

According to the association’s statistics, the number of patients seeing GPs increased by 40 up to 100 percent in the first months of 2015 alone, compared with 2014, LN says.

The patients’ cash fees in health care were introduced by the right-wing government of Mirek Topolanek (Civic Democrats, ODS) in 2008.

The current centre-left government of the Social Democrats (CSSD), ANO and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) abolished the fee per prescription and per visit to a doctor as of January 2015, in harmony with its policy statement. It did not reintroduce the fee per day in hospital either. Only the fee for emergency ward is preserved.

However, two government members, the KDU-CSL and ANO, are considering reintroducing the fees. ANO, headed by Finance Minister Andrej Babis, considers their abolition a mistake.

Martin Zverina writes in a commentary in LN that the abolition of patients’ fees has a negative impact on the health care sector since both GPs and specialists have less time for patients and long-term care hospitals are crowded, while a higher consumption of medicines does not mean a healthier population.

The Social Democrats acted in harmony with their “ideological lie saying health care costs nothing, and they have shown that they despise the doctors’ hard work,” Zverina says.

Only a person ignoring the context can call this approach social, since the fees have never been a barrier to health care access and it was no political issue any longer. It was just one of the populist promises in the CSSD’s quite vague election programme, Zverina notes.

“No one doubts the need of rationality and patients’ higher financial participation in health care unless he wants to develop it only by dull pouring of money into the system. Sources are not unlimited, but politicians’ ignorance seems to be so,” Zverina concludes in LN.