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40% of Catalans have private medical insurance, double a decade ago, says survey

Almost half of people between 25 and 49 rely on private health system, and over a fifth overall have private pension plan

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24 January 2022 02:47 PM

by

Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

Just over 4 in 10 Catalans have private medical insurance, roughly double the amount a decade ago, according to a Catalan News analysis of several surveys published by the Catalan government-owned Center for Opinion Studies (CEO) over the past number of years.

In 2011, 20.7% of the population were privately insured, but this figure has skyrocketed to 40.6% in 2021.

The share is even larger in the age group 25 to 49, with almost one in two (47.9%) enrolled in the private health system – it is 39.8% of those between 50 and 64, and roughly a third of the population aged 65 and above (33.3%) and 18 to 24 (32%).

In 2009, the first year CEO asked about the issue, 28% of residents had private medical insurance, a figure that declined as the impact of the financial crisis got deeper in the early 2010s.

After increasing sharply in 2014 to 40%, the figure fell to 32.5% in 2016, when it steadily grew to the current values, the highest since surveys began in 2009.

Impact of financial crisis in public health

In Catalonia, everyone, except for some very specific high-income international residents, has the right to access the public health system, which includes free visits to general practitioners and emergency departments, the vast majority of medical specialties, and other basic services like Covid-19 vaccinations.

Here's a Catalan News explainer on how the Catalan public care system works and how residents caereoll.

 

  • "We have had a very high quality system, but we are losing it, year after year"

    Josep Maria Argimon · Catalan health minister

Yet, several cuts in the budget during the financial crisis in the early 2010s were implemented, which led to longer waiting lists in some services and widespread complaints from the sector for years, arguing that they were overwhelmed and the quality of the service was declining.

Indeed, last week, amid the current health emergency, the health minister, Josep Maria Argimon, admitted that the system is declining in quality. "The range of services in both Catalonia and Spain is very wide, and this is a public service that we have to preserve as much as possible," he said in a speech during a parliamentary committee. "We have had a very high quality system, but we are losing it, year after year."

Argimon said that, according to his department's figures, 32% of the total population boast private medical insurance, seven percentage points more than 4 years ago.

Pension plans

CEO surveys over the years also show that pension plan owners have been on the rise in the past decade.

Those with such schemes reached 22.7% in 2021, up from 15.4% in 2011 and 20.4% in 2021.

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  • Evolution of the share of Catalans who own medical insurance between 2009 and 2021, according to CEO surveys (by Guifré Jordan)

  • A Covid-19 patient in a prone position at the Vall d'Hebron hospital ICU (by Laura Fíguls)

  • Evolution of the share of Catalans who own medical insurance between 2009 and 2021, according to CEO surveys (by Guifré Jordan)
  • A Covid-19 patient in a prone position at the Vall d'Hebron hospital ICU (by Laura Fíguls)

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