17 plus 1

14 Jan
Lluís Bohígas (@bohigasl), economist

Whenever the Spanish health system is described, the conclusion is that it consists of 17 different healthcare systems. The truth is that they are not very different as they all share a common past and the same rules inherited from the Instituto Nacional de Previsión (INP), but the discourse of diversity, (always excessive), is favoured by supporters of the new centralized model. There are, however, a significant portion of the Spanish people who do not receive healthcare cover from any of the 17 autonomous systems. These people are referred to as System 18. System 18 comprises almost 2 million Spaniards who are beneficiaries of the MUFACE, ISFAS and MUJEJU health insurance plans; in other words, senior state officials, members of the military, judiciary and their families. These individuals can choose where they want to be treated each year, either in an autonomous region, or, as in the majority of cases (80%), by a private healthcare insurance provider.

System 18 has a larger population than many of the autonomous regions in Spain. It is in fact similar in population to the Basque Country and has not been transferred to the autonomous communities, but is still managed by the state. We are unaware of all the healthcare data regarding this group: morbidity, infection, health care utilization, etc. Members of this group do not possess medical cards, electronic medical records, or use electronic prescriptions. Despite being the responsibility of the State, System 18 does not meet the criteria established by the State and required of autonomous regions. The service portfolio is similar to that available to the general public covered by Spain’s National Healthcare System, but with differences in the area of co-payments, although these differences have never been considered as inequalities. It is common for a beneficiary of System 18 to be treated in the autonomous region in the event that they require expensive medical treatment and tend to prefer the services of the NHS when they retire and make greater use of health services. When a MUFACE recipient uses an autonomous community health care system, the state is saved the expense.

System 18 is exclusively made up of civil servants who, despite all the anti-private controversy that has been unleashed, prefer private care. System 18 has been spared the health cuts inflicted on those of us whose healthcare services are provided by autonomous regions. It is possible that the members of System 18 are those responsible for deciding on the cuts to be made in public health, given that it is highly likely that the vast majority of the cabinet is made up of members covered by MUFACE.

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