Here’s a news story you may not have seen in the English press, despite its grave importance.
The Andalucian Health Service (known as the SAS), has managed to come up with 160 million euros to pay for all the medicines prescribed during September, despite having earlier told the guilds of pharmacists that they wouldn’t be able to meet the bill, as Andalucia had run out of cash to pay its medicine bill for the last four months of the year.
An explanation may be in order as to how the SAS works in Andalucia:
Spain’s version of the NHS is split into regional administrations, each administered by the region. So, Andalucia has the SAS, Murcia has the Murcian health service, Catalonia has the Catalan Health Service, etc, etc, etc.
Your local GP, employed by the SAS, prescribes you medicine. You go along to your local pharmacist, who gives you the medicine, and puts the prescription in the till for cashing later. That pharmacist has to buy his drugs off the provincial Guild of Pharmacists, before being reimbursed for the cost of the prescription by the SAS, a maximum of 40 days after dispensing the drug. Get it?
Well, the SAS admitted to the Guild of Pharmacists that it has run out of cash, and that the last four months of the year would not be paid for until 2012.
This lead to a certain amount of panic, as you can imagine, but the Junta de Andalucía said, don’t worry, each guild should pop along to its local bank and ask for a temporary overdraft, which would be backed by the Junta.
Trouble was, according to the press, the only province that actually managed to get this overdraft was Almeria (Cajamar obligingly offered them a rather expensive loan). Other banks were, if not exactly refusing outright, certainly dragging their feet. Holding out for higher interest, or doubting that the Junta would cough up in January? You decide!
Now, it seems that as an election is due on Sunday, Andalucia admitting it had run out of cash to pay for medicines would not be politically viable. So, from somewhere – it has not been specified from where, I notice reading the report- 160 million euros in cash turned up and was distributed to pharmacies across the region.
Now, the SAS said that the cash flow was, and I quote here, “a punctual problem caused by a budget misestimation, and one that has been taken into account for the 2012 budget, which will make up for the 2011 shortfall”. It doesn’t seem to have explained where the 160 million euros was found.
I don’t know about you, but if I were planning to fall ill next year, I’d hurry up and get my medicines in now. Or take out a private health insurance…