In Hungary the whole system of health care is undergoing a change at present. Social security is based on the system of national insurance. Everybody who is working either for an employer or as self-employed has to pay a certain percentage of their income as contribution to the national insurance fund. The fund also receives considerable contributions paid by employers and from general taxation. The contributions from the basis of both the health service funds and taste pension funds. The funds are used to provide free medical treatment for patients and several kinds of state benefits including unemployment, invalidity, sickness and childcare benefits as well as family allowances, and to provide other social services to people who need them. In fact you pay a monthly contribution from your salary but you do not pay for the actual treatment.
The system of retirement pensions has been widened recently. People will have to choose between state and several kinds of none-state pension funds to pay their contributions to and they can also take life-insurance policies, which will provide them with additional pensions. There are several alternatives and the decision is hard to make.
People receive free medical treatment under the National Health Service within the network of family doctors. Every person who makes his/he national insurance contributions receives a social security card which proves that he/she is entitled to receive free medical services both in hospital and outside. People are not obligated to use the service, they may also go to doctors as private patients if they can afford it, and pay huge sams of money for the service. However, most people choose a general practitioner in the area where they live and become registered on his/her list. Each GP receives a fixed payment from the health service funds for each patient on his/her list. Surgeries are open 4 hours a day treating patients who are mobile, and those who are laid up with an illness are visited at home. If a person isn’t able to work because of sickness, the GP puts him/her on the sick list and the patient will receive sickness benefit from the insurance fund at a given rate. With some countries Hungary has an agreement and so when you are abroad as a tourist you don’t have to pay for health care or if you have to, the insurance company will pay it back to you. But you shouldn’t forget to take out policy before the journey.
If a patient needs specialist treatment or is to be operated on in hospital, the family doctor will send him/her to an outpatients’ clinic for special examinations (e.g. blood test, X-ray etc.) or to hospital. The patients should have the best possible treatment and care, but they will probably be put in a large ward with other patients, and in the busy clinics patients usually have to wait long hours for the examinations. Doctors and nurses are generally underpaid, there is a chronic shortage in nurses, who are overburdened and exhausted, and there have also been severe budget cuts in hospitals, which may have detrimental effects on the quality of medical treatment.
In Britain the scope of the National Health Service seems to be wider than in Hungary: it provides free general medical treatment, free dental care and considerable subsidies on medicine, as well. In Hungary general medical treatment is limited to some extent, only basic dental care is free, patients have to pay for special examinations and services and medicines are not cheap either, but they are still cheaper than in most other European countries. There’s also a well-spread, although officially not acknowledged, Hungarian practice: patients who are satisfied with the service they have been given or hope to get better treatment still tend to pay “gratuity” to their doctor in hospital even if the treatment should be officially provided free of charge and paying extra money to doctors is not allowed.
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