4 million will have private health insurance by the end of 2024

 In Health and Wellness, Insurance, News

The President of the Portuguese Association of Insurers, José Galamba de Oliveira has said that the National Health System (SNS) is “irreplaceable” and that health insurance should be seen as complementary.

The association boss said, however, that by the end of this year, four million people will have private health insurance in Portugal if the rate of growth seen in the first four months of the year continues.
He said that in 2010 only two million people in Portugal had private health insurance. This is despite the fact that health insurance costs have gone up and demand for the public health service has not gone down.
At a Capital Markets conference last month on the panel ‘Healthcare: Building from Within”, Isabel Vaz, CEO of private healthcare company Luz Saúde said that the healthcare sector was one of the most important in the Portuguese economy, representing 12% of the country’s GDP with the private funding of the healthcare sector in Portugal worth 4% of GDP, and public expenditure worth around 7% and private expenditure after taxes through private healthcare standing at 4% of GDP.
This meant that the private sector for a country of just over 10 million inhabitants was “huge” which could “not be ignored”.
It also meant that the healthcare market for private players, which is worth around €8Bn, was less fragmented than the outpatient segment which stood at €2.5Bn.
The healthcare market challenges in Portugal, she said, were the same as patterns seen worldwide. It was a sector “valued” by the Portuguese because “if you invest well in healthcare it has a huge impact on the national economy” and the investments made in the sector translate into high productivity, efficiency, and the productivity in terms of the capital invested.
“Unfortunately, the politicians think about productivity in terms of how many surgeries are carried out” but that this was only “one part of the story”.
The healthcare sector represents around 12% of the country’s budget (in the US it is worth around 20% of GDP) but in Portugal the productivity wasn’t matching the increase in expenditure.
Healthcare providers, she said, were facing an increased commoditisation of prices. “We don’t have well-established principles of value-based healthcare which translate into investment in good health, and we have the huge challenge of artificial intelligence which will be the most important innovation in healthcare”, she said.
Another pressing problem facing healthcare sectors around the world was the pressing problem of a lack of healthcare professionals with the current operational models overworking the staff and overburdening the existing services.
“We don’t have enough doctors and nurses, with a lack of healthcare professionals in Europe numbering 1 million, and it is a similar story in the United States,” said Isabel Vaz.
The answer to the problem, she said, would be to enhance their productivity using technology.
Vasco Antunes Pereira, CEO of Lusíadas Saúde said that since Covid-19 people were more aware that they had to be players in their own healthcare, with people asking for more services than they did before.
“If you align this factor with the longevity that we enjoy today, which in itself throws up challenges, we need to act now because in a very short timeframe we will reach a point where marginal measures will no longer continue to deliver value.”
In other words, health systems needed to become more efficient. “When we look at our sector we need to see it as an integrated sector with the private, public and social sectors. If we as a sector do not work as an integrated system and do not become more efficient then inefficiencies and shortages of professionals will undermine us in a systemic way,” he said.
Vasco Antunes Pereira added that there was a huge opportunity for regulatory changes that would make sense in the future and “allow us to continue to have a very good healthcare system like the one we have today.”