Zoltán Massay-Kosubek

While all stakeholders – including key Member States, Members of the European Parliament from all political groups and even the Commission’s own Health Directorate – agree upon the strong EU added value of the Health Programme, reducing EU health policy to the absolut minimum post 2020 is still on its making. Despite the worrying signs, there is no evidence or written confirmation that health is not among the ‘doing less’ EU options identified in the future of Europe dialoge.

Mid-term evaluation of the EU health programme: strong EU added value

The Health Programme is relevant to health. During a public hearing organised on 22nd November 2017 in the European Parliament by the Health Working Group, the mid-term evaluation conducted by an external evaluator demonstrated the importance of the health programme. Important note to the Commission leadership: almost half of the respondents were industry representatives and still the conclusions of the evaluation demonstrated a general approach strongly in favour of this EU policy. The conclusions of the evaluation stressed – among other things – the EU added value of the Health programme and that it is relevant to health.

Member States asking for more money

Various Member States are in favour of more EU action and more resources dedicated to health. If you look at the numbers, evidence and data, the picture is clear: the programme is seriously underfunded. While the sustainability of healthcare systems is a constant challenge in all Member States, support from the EU is vital to shift the burden. As the State of Health reports demonstrate there is a serious imbalance as regards prevention and treatment in health budgets. According to the EU Health Commissioner Andriukaitis, spending only 3% on prevention ‘is simply not enough’.

Health shall not be a bargaining chip in the upcoming EU budget negotiations
While there are several challenges affecting the EU, including Brexit and the refugee crisis, we shall not forget about the magnitude of it: the 3rd Health Programme runs from 2014-2020 with a budget of €449,4 million €. For the period 2014-2020, the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) sets a maximum amount of 963.5 billion € for commitment appropriations and 910 billion € for payment appropriations for the whole EU budget. Thus, as the EU spends less than 0,05% of the whole EU budget to health, no one can really argue with ‘big savings’ to justify scraping the health budget.

Numbers shows that the ‘Big on the Big things’ narrative also fails if we consider that Non-Communicable Diseases (such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes and others) have devastating individual and economic impacts being Europe’s biggest killers; they are responsible for €700 billion in EU healthcare spending annually; and attributable premature deaths result in a 0.8% loss in EU GDP per year.

The strength of the EU Health Programme: lighthouse of EU health policy
The relevance of the EU Health programme is therefore not its budget but its existence. Having a dedicated programme shows the political commitment of the EU towards citizens’ health. Such a programme enables a Directorate General and the Commissioner Responsible for being the internal advocates of Health within the Commission. Having a strong health programme is a precondition to have a healthy Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) focusing on healthy nutrition, a health relevant research policy, and increased health spending in Structural Funds, just to name a few headings relevant to health.

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