In 2015, the health administration reduced the debt of the health system by HRK 350 million, owing to reforms that were launched, and the new health minister will inherit a system with a debt of HRK 2.5 billion.

Prime Minister-Designate Tihomir Oreskovic has recently singled out the health care system as one of the main sectors needing reforms. The current health administration says reforms have already been launched, with visible results, and that the health system now rests on much healthier foundations than was the case four years ago.

The head of the Croatian Health Insurance Institute (HZZO), Tatjana Prendja Trupec, who has been at its helm for one and a half years, said that if the launched reforms were continued, by the end of 2017 the health system would be debt-free and fully financially sustainable.

Despite years of crisis, the health system is for the first time not generating new debts and is repaying old debts from current assets, without restricting patients' rights or increasing the participation fee, and with waiting lists for specialist examinations having been shortened and the number of free prescription drugs having been increased, Prendja Trupec said. 

The debt of HRK 2.5 billion to be inherited by the new health minister is HRK 2.9 billion lower than the debt in late 2011, the HZZO official said.

The lower debt is primarily a result of the financial consolidation of hospitals, the HZZO's exit from the state treasury, and own management of some HRK 22.17 billion that was allocated for health care in 2015, Prendja Trupec said.

More than a half of all hospitals ended the year 2015 in the black, and four of the five university hospital centres have shortened payment deadlines to less than 250 days. Hospitals have also bought new equipment and employed more than 500 doctors and nurses, and at the same time they have reduced the number of non-medical workers, said Prendja Trupec.

A new model of service-contracting was introduced for primary health care, which has resulted in all community health centres operating in the black and 84% of all patients being provided with medical services at the primary health care level.

Patients are obtaining an increasing number of services from their general practitioners, and in 2015 there were one million fewer referrals than in 2013, Prendja Trupec said.

The list of free prescription drugs was expanded with 67 new drugs, which is a record number, funds for particularly expensive drugs were increased by 40% to HRK 800 million, and the list of particularly expensive drugs was expanded to include 24 new drugs, Prendja Trupec said, adding that this put Croatia alongside much richer EU countries.

The year 2015 was also marked by the introduction of new digital services for patients.

Grants in the amount of EUR 300 million were secured from EU structural funds in 2015, contribution payments totalled HRK 18.17 billion, an increase of 5% from 2014. Also, budget funds for the health system amounted to HRK 2.4 billion, and additional health insurance contributions amounted to HRK 1.6 billion, according to Prendja Trupec.

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