Bulgaria’s ruling coalition backtracks on NHIF Budget moratorium on payments for new drugs
Bulgaria’s opposition parties scored a rare victory on December 20, when the country’s ruling coalition agreed to amend the 2018 Budget of the National Health Insurance Fund to strike a provision that precluded the Fund from covering costs of newly-developed drugs.
The provision, which would have affected drugs that have been recently certified and have not been included in the list of drugs the costs of which are fully or partially covered by NHIF, as well as drugs that have been included in that list but were due to be covered starting in 2018, was meant to keep NHIF spending in check.
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.
President Roumen Radev vetoed the law earlier this month, arguing that the moratorium on such payments would result in discriminatory treatment and affected the constitutional right to affordable healthcare.
Despite the ruling coalition overturning the veto in Parliament last week, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov – whose GERB party is the senior partner in government – began backtracking on the issue only days after that vote, offering to ease the restrictions.
The agreement struck by the floor leaders of the five parties in the National Assembly, however, appears to go further and would remove the provision altogether. The motion was scheduled to be voted by Parliament on December 21, with both first and second readings held on the same day so that it can go into effect before the end of the year.
But the agreement did not prevent an exchange of barbs in front of the media. Mustafa Karadaya, leader of the opposition Movement of Rights and Freedoms (MRF) was quick to take credit, saying that his party was the first to table a proposal to strike down the moratorium in November, but it was repeatedly shot down.
GERB floor leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov, meanwhile, made a clear reference to the socialist party, the largest in opposition, saying that it was better for GERB to backtrack and compromise in order to allay the fears of cancer patients (the one group that would have been most affected by the moratorium), stoked by “some political party”.
Socialist leader Kornelia Ninova, whose approach to life on the opposition bench has been to attack the government frequently and vociferously, was the only to strike an unexpected conciliatory note, saying that it did not matter who tabled the proposal to strike the payments moratorium down, as long as it got done.