Tuesday, March 20th 2012

Austerity & Health

Portugal was the third European Union member to seek a bailout. As with Ireland, Portugal’s woes are considerably less than those of Greece and yet its austerity measures it had to implement to achieve its bailout, and avoid bankruptcy, are no less painful. And the austerity measures’ effect on the publicly financed health system is interesting. In an admittedly poorly written piece The Guardian newspaper attempts to attribute a rise in mortality figures for the early part of this year to cuts in the health system’s budget.

[O]pposition politicians blame budget cuts for a thousand extra deaths in February, 20% more than usual.

“They hiked the fees in January…Now a visit to the emergency room costs €20 instead of €9. A consultant costs €7.50. People are angry.”

[...]

In the meantime, the government blames flu and cold weather for February’s surprise jump in the mortality rate, but newspapers have begun to publish scare stories about people who claim to have been priced out of the public health service.

Not knowing the specifics it would be difficult to attribute recent cuts to a 20% increase in the monthly mortality rate. That said it isn’t difficult to imagine austerity and cuts in services significantly influencing people’s access to healthcare in countries like Portugal and Greece and Italy and Spain.

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