European Semester: Commission proposes health recommendations to 12 EU countries
Today, the Commission has adopted proposals for country specific recommendations, including on health as part of its ongoing assistance to Member States in implementing their health systems reforms in the light of an ageing population and a number of other challenges. The Commission recommends that the governments of 12 Member States take better care of their national health systems and improve their effectiveness, increase accessibility and strengthen their resilience, with the following specific recommendations:
Ensure the sustainability of the health and long-term care systems.
In line with the National Health Strategy and its action plan, improve access to health services, including by reducing out-of-pocket payments and addressing shortages of health professionals.
Take measures to ensure that the National Health System becomes fully functional in 2020, as planned.
Ensure the adoption and implementation of the administrative reform to improve cost-effectiveness and equal access to social and healthcare services.
Increase the cost-effectiveness of the healthcare system.
Increase the accessibility, quality and cost-effectiveness of the healthcare system.
Improve the performance of the healthcare system by a further shift from hospital to outpatient care, strengthening disease prevention measures, including at local level, and increasing the quality and affordability of care.
Ensure the sustainability of the healthcare system.
Strengthen expenditure control, cost effectiveness and adequate budgeting, in particular in the health sector with a focus on the reduction of arrears in hospitals.
Improve access to healthcare, including through the shift to outpatient care.
Adopt and implement the healthcare and health insurance act and the planned reform of long-term care.
Implement measures to increase the cost effectiveness of the healthcare system and develop a more effective healthcare workforce strategy.
The adoption each May of proposals for country specific recommendations is a key step in the European Semester, the EU's yearly cycle of economic and social policy coordination. Indeed, given the magnitude and the complexity of the challenges faced in the area of healthcare and of the measures to address them, progress in implementing the reforms must be sustained over the years.
Although Member States are responsible for their own health policy and the organisation and delivery of care, in the context of the European Semester the EU can give a recommendation on certain aspects of its health system to an EU country. The rationale is that EU governments spend an average of 15% of their budgets on health, making it one of the largest and fastest growing areas of expenditure. However, health is also an investment. The health sector is a major source of employment, and timely access to high quality healthcare contributes to social inclusion.
The Commission's above proposal for country-specific recommendations will now be discussed in the Council, where EU countries have until early July to vote on their final adoption. Following the approval of the recommendations, their implementation will be monitored and reported on in the Commission's country reports (due February/March 2019) and in the Members States own National Reform Programmes (April 2019). New recommendations could then be proposed by the Commission around May 2019.