Flemish health and welfare minister Wouter Beke (CD&V) has ordered an enquiry by his department after revelations that changes to the special health budget for the chronically ill have meant that one in four people fall out of the boat.
The new rules on the screening of individual health budgets are intended to limit spending on health care. Previously, anyone requiring long-term or special care could apply for an individual budget which would – the intention was – pay for their needs.
But the provision soon overtook all predictions, with doctors prescribing an increasing number of procedures, at least in part as a means of taking the pressure off of GPs. As a result of the new budget screening, one in four chronically ill people have now lost their health budgets, essentially throwing them back on the budget for the general population.
The new budget stands, since a review in the summer of this year, at €130 a month, solely for non-medical care. Since the change, however, health workers in the field have been reporting a growing number of needy patients who are no longer able to claim the budget, thanks to the new screening methods.
Beke (pictured) has now ordered an enquiry into the allegations, while at the same time calling for a temporary suspension of the new measures while the investigation goes ahead.
According to initial estimates, the number of patients dropped amounts to 27% of the total, which Beke described as “more than expected”. The intention had never been to become so much more strict, he said; the aim had been a reduction in costs of 15%.
The new system now moves on to the back burner while the enquiry proceeds, with patients looking for renewals subject to the old rules for the time being. New applicants, on the other hand, will still be subject to the new screening rules. That rule also affects the 3,000 or so patients who have, since the introduction of the new rules, lost their health budget.
Last week in the Flemish parliament, opposition party Vooruit called on Beke to suspend the new rules for all, including those who have since lost their budget rights. The call received no support from the majority.