Czech health minister wants additional charges for people abusing emergency rooms

His proposal introduces new fees for people who use emergency services without visiting a general practitioner first. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 03.03.2023 10:29:00 (updated on 06.03.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

To stop people from abusing urgent care services at Czech hospitals, Health Minister Vlastimil Válek wants to introduce regulatory fees. These would be paid, for example, by patients who go to emergency rooms first instead of seeing a general practitioner. Válek expects to receive concrete proposals from the government’s National Economic Council (NERV).

People currently pay CZK 90 to use medical and dental emergency services. While some people do have emergencies and need urgent care, others patients abuse the system by using emergency rooms and ambulances when a simple visit to their doctor would suffice. "Regulation of emergency services is needed, many people go there unnecessarily," Válek told daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD).

He considers it unacceptable that doctors on the receiving end have to decide who should pay for using emergency services. "There would have to be a clear definition in advance, whether people who arrive by ambulance would be exempt from this," Válek said.

Visits to doctors to remain free of charge

According to Válek, visits to general practitioners should not be charged. "I can rather imagine that the patient will pay for not going to the practitioner first, but directly to the medical facility," Válek said. He pointed out that the availability of practitioners is not the same everywhere, so it would be unfair to punish a person who does not have one for going straight to the hospital.

Czechs started paying regulatory fees in January 2008, at CZK 30 for a doctor's appointment and for an item on a prescription, CZK 60 for a day in a hospital, and CZK 90 for an emergency room visit. The individual fees changed over time and some disappeared. Since January 2015, the obligation to pay CZK 30 for ambulances or at pharmacies has ceased to exist. All that remained was the CZK 90 emergency fee.

Some doctors ask for illegal payments

Some doctors, especially gynecologists or dentists, still collect money from their patients even for procedures covered by health insurance. Válek said insurance companies should deal with such cases. "A lot of things are happening that are illegal. And those who carry out such activities should be prosecuted," Válek told news server Deník N.

He added that collecting fees for services paid for by insurance companies is not a widespread phenomenon in the Czech Republic.  

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