From: Alice Taylor
Albanians Up Spending on Private Healthcare Amid Pandemic

Albanians spent more than EUR 100 million on private healthcare in 2021, despite it being available for free in state hospitals.

Accounts filed by the country’s top private hospitals, including American Hospital, International Hospital, Sallus, and German Hospital, amongst others, showed their combined income exceeded EUR 103 million, the highest amount since private hospitals entered the Albanian market.

2021 was the year of the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a low rate of doctors, 16.5 per 10,000 inhabitants, combined with struggling services in public hospitals, saw many opt to go private.

The increase in private spending was over 25% more than 2020, equivalent to EUR 20 million. American Hospital, the largest private group in the country, saw its revenue soar by 21%, while Salus saw a 7% increase and German Hospital, 41%.

Data processed by Monitor summarised that due to overcrowding and low trust in public healthcare, many paid to go private with an average cost of EUR 20,000.

American Hospital states in the annual report that there has been a “decrease in the ability of families to pay and the focus of their expenses on the treatment of the infection by COVID-19. The increased prices and the increased expenditure on medicines significantly affected their well-being”.

Some costs are reimbursed by the state, such as kidney dialysis, and others are paid through private insurance companies that pay a part of the final bill.

In comparison, during the same year, the state spent EUR 650 million on healthcare, an increase of 16% compared to 2020. Some 46% of this is the treatment of hospitalised patients.

Albanian Government Slashes Healthcare Funds in Budget Revision

Recent changes to the state budget have cut funds for the health sector to the tune of EUR 16 million, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic at a time, the health service is already under strain.

The new budget shows that the Ministry of Health and Social Protection will receive 74.7 billion lek instead of the 76.7 billion lek designated in March this year. This translates into a reduction of some 2 billion leks (EUR 16.5 million) or 2.6%.

Cuts have been applied to all services, particularly Primary Care Services and Public Care Services, two key sectors related to managing the pandemic. Both are currently underfunded.

The primary service budget was cut by 9.6 per cent, with around 851 million ALL or EUR 7 million. The public health budget was cut by 14 per cent with a reduction of EUR 7.3 million.

Secondary care services represented by hospitals were reduced by around 2 million euros, while expenses for planning, administration and management were reduced by 3%.