Healthcare-Driven Poverty Grips Europe: WHO Report Reveals Alarming Trends

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WHO’s Assessment of European Healthcare

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a comprehensive report on the state of healthcare in 40 European countries, assessing the financial impact on citizens. This study, conducted before the pandemic, indicates widespread struggles with medical bills, creating a significant link between health and wealth.

Unmet Medical Needs Soar

The WHO report emphasizes the prevalence of financial difficulties arising from healthcare expenses, primarily due to the common practice of expecting patients to make upfront payments. This phenomenon leads many Europeans to forego essential treatments, resulting in a notable increase in unmet medical needs across the continent.

Catastrophic Health Spending Across Europe

The WHO classifies health spending as ‘catastrophic’ when households pay more than 40% of their capacity for medical bills out of pocket. The rate of catastrophic health spending varies, with the most critical situations identified in countries like Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine. In these nations, over 14% of households experience this issue. Conversely, Ireland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the UK have the lowest incidence, recorded at under 2%.

Impoverishing Households: The Aftermath of Medical Bills

The report introduces the terms ‘impoverished’ and ‘further impoverished’ to describe households struggling with medical bills. ‘Impoverished’ denotes a situation where a household can no longer meet basic needs after paying for medical treatment, while ‘further impoverished’ describes households already below the basic needs threshold, pushed further into poverty by healthcare costs. In countries like Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Ukraine, over 7% of households fall into these categories.

Drivers of Catastrophic Spending and Solutions

Outpatient medicines, outpatient dental care, outpatient medical products, and inpatient care are identified as key drivers of catastrophic spending. To address this crisis, the WHO recommends adequate funding for universal health coverage through public spending. Currently, only 23 out of 40 countries studied cover over 99% of their population, highlighting the urgent need for improved access to publicly financed healthcare that does not depend on social health insurance contributions, leaving vulnerable populations unprotected. The WHO emphasizes the importance of making free or affordable healthcare a reality for millions facing excruciating choices between essential medical care and basic needs like food or electricity.

SOURCE: Ref Image from The Hill

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