Bulgaria’s Parliament voted on July 3 to fire the head of the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), Plamen Tsekov, citing lack of transparency and conflicts with doctor and patient associations.
NHIF is the independent government agency that manages the collection of mandatory health care insurance and parcels out the funds to the health care system, including state subsidies to hospitals and partial coverage of medicine costs for patients.
Tsekov’s sacking is one the first major moves by the ruling majority in Parliament backing the Plamen Oresharski government to replace the management of big state agencies. (The attempt to elect Delyan Peevski as head of the State Agency for National Security in June sparked the ongoing anti-government protests, now about to enter their fourth week.)
Tsekov’s firing was voted by 104 MPs, all of them from the ruling coalition between the socialists and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms. In recent days, he has come under pressure to resign, but refused to do, saying that such demands were motivated by political reasons, not his performance as director of NHIF.
Tsekov was appointed in April 2012 by the previous legislature, dominated by Boiko Borissov’s party GERB. Prior to his appointment, he was a GERB MP.
GERB, which continues to boycott Parliament sittings, has already said that the party would challenge the sacking in the Constitutional Court, arguing that the reasons given for Tsekov’s sacking did not meet the criteria for firing the NHIF head, outlined in existing laws.
According to reports in Bulgarian media, the socialist group plans to nominate Rumyana Todorova, who served as NHIF director under the socialist-led tripartite coalition government in 2005-09, to the position. The deadline for other nominations is July 8.
(Bulgarian Parliament. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)