Банкеръ Weekly

Briefs

DOING BUSINESS WITH THE HEALTHCARE FUND IS FAT WORK

The Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) has imposed a BGN15,000 fine on the National Healthcare Insurance Fund (NHIF). The penalty refers to 10,000 small devices that help diabetics test their blood sugar level. The items were donated by the Austrian Red Cross and the fund decided to give them out until exhaustion. The fund officials justified themselves by saying they would thus save BGN1.5MN. Obviously, that's the amount these 10,000 devices are considered to cost. What's the problem as soon as they have been donated, somebody would exclaim. No problem, somebody else would reply, ignoring CPC's warning about market distortion. Except for the several ifs that always come up whenever the NHIF is discussed.It's clear that there's hardly a person interested in the price of that donation, but let's calculate: the NHIF calculated that each item costs BGN150. But various brands are sold between BGN60 and BGN100 by retailers. It means that at least a half of that saved million is mere boasting. But it is also a reason to say the most important thing.And it is that these devices cannot operate without test bands, which are specific and irreplaceable for each brand. The NHIF is obliged to provide diabetics with 150 free bands a year, for at least five years, when it can also replace the apparatus. One band costs about BGN1. And the trick is that the donated items have not been equipped with test bands. The NHIF and the diabetics should buy them at their own expenses. Therefore, the obligatory 150 bands needed for one year cost BGN1.5MN and the importer has secured himself a steady business worth BGN7.5MN for a five-year period. What the NHIF officials have received in return remains a secret.Regarding the BGN15,000 fine, imposed by the CPC, it is just a drop in the ocean, compared to the size of the operation. Even if the fine is paid some day, it will not be by money from the salaries of the guilty officials. It will be paid by our own money, collected by the NHIF as non-voluntary monthly installments. The fine which is the third of its kind will simply remain unpaid. It will be appealed in court until the whole affair passes on and the money is properly collected.

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