Health Ministry Owes National Health Insurance Fund Lv 18 Mln - Fund's Director

Sofia, February 21 (BTA) - The Health Ministry owes the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) 18 million leva, NHIF Director Kamen Plochev told a hearing by the parliamentary Healthcare Committee on Wednesday.

The hearing was prompted by last week's row in which Health Minister Kiril Ananiev demanded Plochev's resignation after the latter asked Parliament to increase the NHIF budget by 140 million leva over the head of the Fund's Supervisory Board.

At Wednesday's hearing Plochev talked about Bulgaria's steadily growing debt to EU healthcare institutions for treatment of its citizens. He said the Health Ministry ought to transfer 18 million leva to the NHIF - the reimbursements owed to foreign health insurance funds for medical treatment provided to Bulgarians. So far the Ministry has paid 64,000 leva, he said.

The amounts paid every year to foreign health insurance funds are smaller than their claims, which has led to a steady increase in Bulgaria's debt. At present the NHIF owes 271 million leva, while the allocation in the NHIF budget is 73 million leva. The NHIF has been receiving a growing stream of letters complaining that the Fund has failed to meet the 18-month deadline, and pressing for a payment schedule. A letter from Germany of January 20 said the deadline had expired. The amount due to Germany alone exceeds 20 million leva, said Plochev.

He said: "We decided to ask Parliament for help in a letter, no one has demanded a budget update. We need someone to tell us how to deal with this problem."

Healthcare Committee Chair Daniela Daritkova said that ignorance of the law is no excuse and that the holder of such a position should be aware of all legal procedures.

Plochev said the NHIF had been informed that 332 Bulgarian patients were refused treatment abroad in 2017, in addition to 334 in 2016.

He told the Healthcare Committee he had been threatened but did not specify by whom. Last week Socialist MP Slavcho Velkov said that through an intermediary, Plochev had received a threat from "a senior politician", who wanted him to resign or face the consequences.

As at January 31, the overdue reimbursements to foreign health insurance funds are 7.6 million leva, Deputy Health Minister Zheni Nacheva, who chairs the NHIF Supervisory Board, told the hearing. No payments were overdue as at December 31, 2017, she said. Given that it is February and that 73 million leva have been allocated for payments to foreign health insurance funds this year, there is no problem with payments for medical treatment at this stage.

Nacheva was adamant that there is no financial problem with payments to the EU health insurance funds.

Source: Sofia