Bulgarian MPs passed at first reading on July 29 the revision of the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) budget, approving the allocation of 225 million leva, mainly to cover the expenses of hospital care.
The motion passed with 184 votes in favour and one abstention – the closest that the 42nd National Assembly has come to reaching unanimity since taking office in May 2013. Opposition party GERB voted in favour, saying it did so despite its belief that the amount was insufficient.
NHIF governor Rumyana Todorova, appointed to the position last summer by the outgoing ruling axis, made the same argument on July 29, saying that the extra funding will not be enough to cover expenses until the end of the year.
On the other issue on Parliament’s agenda on July 29, the revision of the state Budget, the socialists continue to oppose the bill tabled by the outgoing Plamen Oresharski administration.
Last week, after the special Parliament sitting was scheduled to discuss the Budget revision, the socialists attempted to persuade Oresharski to retract the bill, but were unsuccessful.
The socialists made an attempt to prevent Parliament from debating the bill by staging a walkout, but the ensuing roll call showed that the House still had the required quorum, after which the socialist group returned to their benches.
During debates on the House floor, socialist group leader Atanas Merdzhanov criticised the revision as unnecessary. Answering GERB’s criticism that the socialists were failing to support their own government, Merdzhanov said that passing the Budget revision would be tantamount to acknowledging that the Oresharski government had failed and the socialists refused to take such a view.
The cabinet’s Budget revision bill envisions – in addition to the allocation of 225 million leva to NHIF – lower Budget revenue (by 500 million leva) and raises the government debt ceiling by about 3.4 billion leva (about 1.75 billion euro).
Update: MPs approved, later in the evening, following more than five hours of debates, the Budget revision by 117 votes in favour and 61 against. Parliament also approved a motion to hold a special sitting on August 4 to debate the Budget revision at second reading.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)