Experts warn of the importance of health insurance in Portugal


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International conference points to urgent need to strengthen health insurance in Portugal to ensure access to better medical care. Experts gathered to discuss challenges and solutions.

The 1st International Conference of the Jean Monnet Module on Insurance Law of the European Union, promoted by NOVA School of Law together with AIDA Portugal, was held on July 13 and 14, 2023, focusing on the “Challenges in the Age of SDGs” (Sustainable Development Goals). The event was attended by speakers from various areas who discussed the central role of health insurance in promoting the well-being of the population in contemporary societies.

The Jean Monnet Module, funded by the Erasmus+ program of the European Commission and under the responsibility of Margarida Lima Rego, Director of NOVA School of Law and also President of AIDA Portugal, started a series of annual conferences, each dedicated to different Sustainable Development Goals. The 2023 edition was entirely dedicated to SDG 3 – Quality Health.

For a day and a half, experts shared knowledge and analysis on the importance of the insurance sector in promoting the health and well-being of the population in Portugal and in the world today. One of the outstanding interventions was that of Margarida Corrêa de Aguiar, President of the Insurance and Pension Funds Supervisory Authority (ASF), who highlighted the expectation of society, economic agents and policy makers regarding the growing and effective role of the insurance sector in ensuring protection and compensation for losses resulting from increasingly diverse and severe risks.

The ASF leader also highlighted that, in the national context, health insurance has become a complementary pillar of the National Health Service, with impressive growth in recent years. As already reported by ECOseguros and according to the data presented, gross direct insurance premiums written went from €523 million in 2012 to €1,156 million in 2022, registering a remarkable growth of 120%. The production of health insurance had an increase of 34% in the period from 2019 to 2022, significantly exceeding the growth of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the same time interval.

Pedro Pirra Barros, holder of the BPI | “la Caixa” Foundation Chair in Health Economics at the Nova School of Business and Economics and the keynote speaker of the conference, presented worrying data. According to information from the National Statistics Institute, despite the growing penetration of health insurance in Portuguese society, the insurance sector supports only about 4% of current health expenditure. In contrast, direct household expenditure on financing the Portuguese health system represents 29%. Public funding, in turn, remains the main source of support for the country’s health system, representing around 66% of total health expenditure in 2021.

In the midst of the proposed reflections, Margarida Lima Rego asked why the remarkable 120% growth in health insurance in the last decade, covering about a third of the Portuguese population, has not translated into a proportional increase in the sector’s responsibility for covering health expenses?

The CEO of Multicare, Maria João Sales Luís, presented a possible explanation during her roundtable, pointing out that, for the most part, the insured capital of the policies issued in Portugal is still insufficient to cover serious illnesses.

From the discussions and conclusions of the conference, Margarida Lima Rego highlighted the importance of raising market awareness on the relevance of health insurance as a tool to finance citizens’ access to the best healthcare in situations of serious illness, reinforcing its social function. Health insurance should not be limited to reimbursing minor consultations and procedures, but should be able to respond to the most serious risks, providing greater protection to the population.

In order to achieve this goal, ASF announced the investment in initiatives aimed at improving the quality of health insurance regulation and supervision, including the construction of a dedicated Health Insurance Portal and a Permanent Health Insurance Observatory.

The conference represented an important opportunity to discuss and seek solutions for the health insurance sector in Portugal, with the aim of providing effective access to quality medical care and strengthening the protection and well-being of the population.

Primeira Conferência Internacional do Módulo Jean Monnet Direito dos Seguros: Desafios na Era dos ODS

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