Bulgarian MPs amend 2018 NHIF Budget to strike down moratorium on new drugs payments

Bulgarian Parliament passed on December 21 an amendment to the 2018 Budget of the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), striking down a provision that precluded the Fund from covering costs of newly-developed drugs.

The amendment passed with a rare, but expected, show of unanimity – given that the floor leaders of the five parliamentary groups in the National Assembly agreed on the swift passage of the bill just a day earlier – as all 192 MPs present on the House floor voted in favour.

The political statements that followed the vote were equally predictable, from back-patting in opposition ranks for scoring a rare victory on the House floor, to recriminations of fear-mongering from the ruling majority.

President Roumen Radev, who had vetoed the 2018 NHIF Budget, only to have his veto overturned by Parliament last week, welcomed the passage of the amendment, saying that parliamentary parties should “continue to take into account ethical concerns and act in the interest of the citizens’ constitutional rights and social justice.”

The provision struck down on December 21 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.

Its goal was to keep spending at NHIF – 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 ­­– in check.

The moratorium would have affected 32 drugs, most of them expensive and used to treat cancer and rare diseases. Official forecasts estimated about 8600 patients would use the drugs in 2018, at a cost to NHIF of 50 million leva.

But Bulgaria’s pharmacists union said on December 21 that the costs could run as high as 70 million leva, which would in turn widen the deficit in NHIF’s medicines budget to as much as 150 million leva in 2018. The union’s chairperson Ilko Getov urged Parliament to revise the NHIF budget to increase the Fund’s medicines budget, as quoted by public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio.




The Sofia Globe staff

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