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Health care in the political debate

December 2nd, 2019

Pro-government commentators accuse the opposition of demagoguery when it comes to health care. A left-wing columnist finds the government’s proposed amendments to the Health Care Act both inhumane and discriminatory.

In Magyar Nemzet, Gábor Baranyai criticizes Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony for making his support for the government’s planned new central hospital in Budapest dependent on the purchase of more CT scanners in the capital’s hospitals. The pro-government commentator writes that the number of CT scanners has doubled since 2010. Today, the shortage of doctors and medical staff is a much bigger problem than the shortage of equipment, Baranyai notes. He also mentions that Mayor Karácsony has declared a climate emergency in Budapest, which, in Baranyi’s view, fuels already ‘hysterical’ environmentalist sentiments. In conclusion he suspects that the opposition will use both health care and environmentalism to mobilize voters, even if such tactics require what he regards as highly demagogic and simplistic messages.

Writing in the same daily, László Korányi accuses Gyula Kincses, the newly elected President of the Hungarian Medical Chamber of trying to use the medical profession to criticize the government. Korányi recalls that Mr. Kincses started his political career in the 1990s as an MP of the conservative MDF, then served as a leading health care government official under several socialist-liberal governments. In this latter capacity, he weakened the autonomy of the Hungarian Medical Chamber by downgrading it to a consultative body, he writes. Mr Kincses has made appearances in the opposition media (see BudaPost through 2015), and he has also  been actively involved in drafting the opposition parties’ health care programme. In light of all this, Korányi fears that he will serve the political interests of the opposition rather than Hungarians and the health care system.

Népszava’s Miklós Hargitai finds the government’s proposed amendments to the social security system discriminatory. The government proposes to exclude those who do not pay their social security contributions from free health care. The left-wing columnist points out that employers in the black economy do not pay social security contributions for their employees. In addition, many otherwise legally operating firms are also behind schedule with their social security payments. Hargitai adds that those Hungarians born abroad to expatriate parents working in Western Europe or North America can only be registered in the health care system through a very difficult administrative procedure. He accuses the government of discriminating against groups that the government does not consider important, including people who do not contribute to the social security system due to lack of resources. Hargitai finds it shameful that the government feels no solidarity towards these Hungarians, who after the planned amendments will become second class citizens.