Millions Go to the Doctor “Unnecessarily”

People’s out-of-pocket payments for healthcare declined from the previous 52% to 40%.People’s out-of-pocket payments for healthcare declined from the previous 52% to 40%.

A nationwide review of health statistics for the year 2015 reveals that nearly half of the visits to specialists’ clinics were unnecessary, and that 98.3% of the people who visited health centers received the services they needed, said Iraj Harirchi, Health Ministry spokesperson.

“Around 48.5% of the people visited medical specialists for the first time, with the figure being 42.2% in rural areas and 50.6% in urban areas,” he said.

The assessment indicates “unnecessary reference of patients to specialists instead of GPs, which is a huge waste of money,” Salamat News quoted him as saying.

Unnecessary visits have led to long waiting time for those who are truly in need of special healthcare services.

Taking stock of health spending in 2015, the official said on average, people paid 104,130 rials ($2.8) to receive outpatient service in state hospitals.

In the same year, 99.2% of patients in need of hospital stay received the services and on average, they paid more than $14 for stay. However, the figure is not the same in rural and urban areas. The average cost per hospital stay was 1.1 million rials ($28) in big cities and 597,200 rials ($14.9) in rural areas. The latter indicates that the government has improved health insurance cover in the rural areas.

The cost in private hospitals was 2.8 million rials ($72) on average (and far more for people without complementary insurance). The average length of stay was 3.4 days.

Pointing to favorable coverage of the National Immunization Program, he said the coverage was 98% for pentavalent vaccine, 99.1% for measles, and 98.4 for DTP.

The annual doctor visits per capita were 4.1 visits per person per year. The figure was 3.9 visits in rural areas and 4.3 visits in urban areas. The figure was 4.8 for women and 3.4 for men.

   Health Expenditures

In January, Davoud Danesh Jafari, senior advisor to the health minister in economic affairs said, “With the implementation of the 2014 health reforms, people’s out-of-pocket payments for healthcare declined from the previous 52% to 40%.” Out-of-pocket expenses for medical care are not reimbursed by insurance.   Out-of-pocket payments for health can compel families to incur prohibitive costs, which in turn can push them into poverty, say the World Health Organization and independent social experts. The need to pay out-of-pocket can also imply that many households do not seek care when they need it.

Although the reduction in out-of pocket payments has been significant for many households, it is still high compared to many countries. Currently, the figure is 15% in Turkey, 39% in Iraq, 70% in Afghanistan, and 11% in the US.

While it is 49.9 % in Cyprus and 45.8 % in Bulgaria, a household’s out-of-pocket payments accounted for more than one-third of the total healthcare expenditure in Greece and Latvia. France (7.2 %) is the only European Union member state where direct payments for healthcare accounted for a single-digit figure in healthcare expenditure. Other EU members registered a figure in the range of 10–15 %, the European Commission says in its website

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