Prime Minister of Latvia expresses support to increase public financing for health

Ministry of Health of Latvia

From L to R: Dr Anda Caksa, Minister of Health – Latvia; Aiga Rurane – Head of the country office; Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis; Secretary of State for Health Karlis Ketners and Dr Tamás Evetovits, WHO/Europe

Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis of Latvia acknowledged the need to increase public funding for health in the country at a high-level conference held in Riga on 21 September. At the same event Minister of Health Dr Anda Čakša described her plans to achieve 12% of government budget allocation to health by 2018, following recommendations by WHO experts.

The conference was organized by the Prime Minister’s Office jointly with the Ministry of Health to discuss health financing reform options in Latvia. At the event, Dr Tamás Evetovits, Head of the WHO Barcelona Office for Health Systems Strengthening, presented WHO’s report and recommendations on health financing policy in Latvia.

Key messages in the report included the following.;

  • Latvia has universal population coverage and this achievement should be protected and further strengthened by reducing the financial burden on patients.
  • Financial hardship in Latvia is heavily concentrated among poor households and pensioners, and it is largely driven by out-of-pocket payments for outpatient medicines.
  • Latvia needs to increase public spending on health in order to improve financial protection and equity in access to services; WHO recommends a minimum of 12% of the government budget allocation to the health sector.

Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis opened the conference and took an active role in the debate, which started with presentations from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and WHO/Europe. Francesca Colombo, Head of the OECD Health Division, presented the first review of the Latvian health system since Latvia joined OECD in June 2016.

Prior to the conference, the Prime Minister invited WHO representatives to a bilateral meeting, where he expressed appreciation for WHO’s active engagement in supporting the Ministry of Health. He explained the challenges in finding a solution to reforming the financing of the Latvian health system, while acknowledging that Latvia needs to increase public funding for health regardless of the option chosen for reform. Minster of Health Dr Anda Čakša and Mr Kārlis Ketners, State Secretary, were also present at the meeting.

Cooperation between WHO and Latvia on health financing policy issues has been continual and intensive over the past six years. In 2012 WHO provided comments on the planned introduction of compulsory health insurance in Latvia, including a 10-point proposal for consideration regarding health financing policy in the aftermath of the severe economic crisis.

In June 2016 the Minister of Health of Latvia requested a consultation with WHO experts on current health financing policy challenges and options for reform with relevance to the country context in the light of international experience. In response to this request, the WHO Barcelona Office for Health Systems Strengthening, Division of Health Systems and Public Health, with the support of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, invited a delegation from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Finance for a consultative meeting. The outcomes of that meeting were presented at the high-level conference.