It seems the global pandemic has prompted an increase in people taking out private health insurance policies rather than relying on the public system with figures released this week indicating that the Alicante province has registered the largest increase in a decade of people taking out health insurance. Experts believe that delays of a year for operations or specialist appointments have prompted people to take their healthcare into their own hands, claiming that the coronavirus pandemic has caused the public health system to burst at the seams.
More and more people in the province of Alicante have had to resort to private insurance in order to speed up consultations with the doctor. In the province of Alicante there are now 314,209 people who pay for a private policy, according to data from Unespa, the business association of insurance companies. This is the highest number of insured persons in the province since 2011. In 2021 alone the sector increased by 26,000 insured persons, the highest annual growth figure recorded in a decade and almost double that of 2020.
For Rosa Atiénzar, health spokesperson at the CCOO union, the relationship between the pandemic and the increase in health insurance is clear and she calls for urgent solutions. “One of the risks of not having sufficient resources in public health is that it ends up being privatized.”
Atiénzar has urged health authorities to strengthen the public system to avoid inequalities and not end one of the pillars of Spain’s health system, which is to offer the same health care to all of the population, regardless of where they live. “Who can really afford health insurance? Social inequalities are accentuating, because those who do not have resources have fewer opportunities to protect their health”. Atiénzar calls for hospitals to be reinforced once and for all, but above all health centres, and for the GDP allocated to other European countries to be invested. “In Spain, investment is around 5.8%, while the average for the European Union is 7.5%,” she explained.
President of the Patient Ombudsman Association, Carmen Flores, regrets that the private sector is reaping “numerous benefits with referrals that public health is making and the increase in the private insurance sector” during the pandemic. However, warned Flores, this increase in the private sector is causing private clinics to suffer waiting lists for the first time.
Unespa, the insurance company association, maintains that public and private health “are not rivals, but rather complement each other” and believe that the growth of the medical insurance sector is due to its own merits. “Medical insurance is successful because its products that are marketed at competitive and accessible prices, the available offer is wide and has differential characteristics.”
In the province of Alicante there are a total of 23,072 people waiting to undergo surgery, of which 5,402 have been waiting for more than 6 months. In terms of specialists, there are departments that have up to a year long waiting list for an ordinary appointment in specialties such as Ophthalmology, Dermatology and ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat). The Ministry of Health has promised that this year, staff of hospitals and health centres will increase by 6,000 people from the month of April.