Health Care Reform in Turkey
In a very revolutionary move, Turkey has made cancer treatment essentially accessible for all. Labour and Social Security Minister Jülide Sarıeroğlu announced in a written statement that the country has abolished all extra fees that were charged in treatment, surgery and medication of cancer.

This new shift in policy is part of a longstanding effort to improve health care in Turkey and make health care coverage available for all, particularly the nation’s poor.

Universal Health Care in Turkey

The policy was approved earlier this year and shows further commitment to universal health care in Turkey. Sarıeroğlu added that Turkey will continue to make improvements to its health care system regardless of costs.

The impact this will have on the population is significant as 20 percent of deaths in Turkey are caused by cancer and 450 individuals are diagnosed with cancer on a daily basis, totaling to approximately 164,000 cases every year. As part of the shift, the government also increased cancer treatment payments in private hospitals by 200 percent for those with social benefits.

The Labour and Social Security minister has additionally committed to improving the conditions of public health care providers and state universities. Lastly, to avoid overcrowding, hospitals owned by the Health Ministry and the Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu (Social Security Institution) were merged.

The History of Health Care in Turkey

In 2002, Turkey’s health care system was riddled with inefficiencies. The country’s allocation towards cancer treatment was a paltry 3 percent in overall spending. The infant mortality rate was at 26.1 per 1,000 live births, and two-thirds of the population had no access to health insurance.

With the support of the World Bank Group, the Health Transformation Programme was initiated. The programme’s main goal was to overhaul the previous health care infrastructure and equalize access to health facilities in rural and urban areas alike. Along with addressing systemic regional imbalances, the World Bank has helped Turkey confront non-communicable diseases, including but not limited to cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Reform of the Health Care in Turkey

Since the implementation of better and more comprehensive health care in Turkey, the citizens of the country have seen an increase in insurance coverage from 2.4 million people in 2003 to 10.2 million people in 2011. Coverage specifically for Turkey’s poorest decile jumped from 24 percent in 2003 to 85 percent in 2011. The enhanced financial protection provided by insurance has reduced the relative number of out-of-pocket payments, especially for lowest-income households, subsequently leading to a decline in exorbitant health expenditures.

Furthermore, life expectancy at birth is now close to the average level proposed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). An average Turkish newborn in 2014 has the chance to live 6 years longer than a Turkish baby born in 2002. This is an increase from 71.9 to 77.7 years. Only 39 percent of the population was content with health services in 2003, whereas 2011 saw satisfaction bloom to 75.9 percent.

This upward trajectory of health care in Turkey has validated the optimism of citizens looking forward to universal health care. The country’s existing hospitals are experiencing a reformation period and 500 new hospitals have opened in recent years. In her written statement, Jülide Sarıeroğlu assured that there are more improvements to come in the future period.

Yumi Wilson
Photo: Flickr