Every fourth citizen has paid unofficially for healthcare services in Lithuania, a country of “free” healthcare

A representative opinion poll conducted in November 2008 was carried out to elicit whether Lithuanians have paid, officially or unofficially, for healthcare services in public or private healthcare institutions over the past five years. The following question was whether they would pay for an operation or other treatment in the future.
The survey revealed that only 25 percent of Lithuanians have not paid officially or unofficially for healthcare services. As much as 87 percent of respondents (of these who reported to have paid unofficially) would pay unofficially for an operation, if needed, in the future.
According to the survey, 25 percent of the Lithuanian population did not pay any money for healthcare services. Forty-nine percent of those polled covered the full or partial price of healthcare services in public or private institutions. Twenty-five percent reported to have paid unofficially or gave presents to doctors or nurses. Overall, a total of 59 percent of respondents paid officially or unofficially for healthcare services, 10 percent did not refer to any healthcare institution and 6 percent did not answer at all.
The results of the survey show that there is a considerable difference between views of those who referred to medical institutions and not, and those who paid unofficially and those who did not for the services rendered. Respondents who reported they hadn’t visited any healthcare institutions over the past five years claim they wouldn’t pay unofficially for operations (57 percent) and for other services (75-78 percent). Whereas even 87 percent of respondents (of those who paid unofficially for medical services) would pay again unofficially for operations and 43-57 percent would pay for other services.
As LFMI’s President Rūta Vainienė commented, the Lithuanian Law on Health Insurance specifies that primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level healthcare services are covered from the Mandatory Healthcare Insurance Fund, but the survey shows that people are willing to pay in full or in part for their medical services.
According to Ms. Vainienė, the results of the opinion poll lead to an assumption that the current mechanism of funding of healthcare services fails to ensure desirable healthcare services or a desirable quality of these services. Although legal acts declare that nearly everything is covered from the Mandatory Healthcare Insurance Fund, in reality, however, all what people receive is queues in medical institutions, concealed methods of treatment and perceiving that people will not get desirable services without paying additionally.
According to LFMI, the current system of healthcare funding needs serious overhauling. First, the state must define explicitly what medical services and to what extent will be covered from the Mandatory Healthcare Insurance Fund. Second, healthcare institutions would then be able to decide whether this funding is sufficient, if not, they would be able to clearly set the size of co-payments charged at an individual institution. Third, funding from the Mandatory Healthcare Insurance Fund must be provided to private and public healthcare establishments on an equal basis, so that a person who pays mandatory healthcare insurance contributions was granted freedom to choose a medical institution himself/herself.
This representative sociological survey was conducted on November 7-16, 2008 using face-to-face interviews. It is an Omnibus poll. 1,046 permanent Lithuanian inhabitants aged 15 to 74 were interviewed. Statistical error does not exceed 3 percent.