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6 Facts About Healthcare In BulgariaBulgaria is an Eastern European country south of Greece, north of Romania, and east of the Black Sea. With a population of 7 million and cultural influence from the Ottoman Empire, Greece, and Persia, Bulgaria has a unique and diverse background. Healthcare is a vital aspect of European life and Bulgaria is no different. Here are facts about healthcare in this country.

Bulgaria Has Centralized Healthcare

Healthcare in Bulgaria is largely centralized, with the National Assembly, the National Health Insurance Fund, and the Ministry of Health being the main funders. Social single-payer healthcare is monitored through the NHIF, which covers services included in the benefits package and certain medications. Voluntary healthcare is administered by for-profit insurance companies and deals with both the citizens and providers.

These systems, working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, fund services including emergency care in-patient mental health care and developing medical science. The amount of money spent on healthcare in Bulgaria continues to rise, but fees for citizens are staying the same.

The Bulgarian Healthcare System is Overcrowded

In 2016, Bulgaria had just over 321 hospitals and less than 50,000 beds as the population was continuing to grow. This led to a severe overcapacity of the healthcare system. Just over 5.5 % of working adults serve in the healthcare field. While the number of physicians has increased, general practitioners have been on the decline. This is partly due to aging and the ongoing emigration problem. The number of nurses has continued to be the EU’s worst rate with just 1.1 nurses per physician. Overall, healthcare in Bulgaria faces challenges such as a lack of medical equipment and healthcare providers.

Overall Health is On the Rise

The primary causes of death in Bulgaria are the same as in most European countries: Circulatory diseases, such as coronary heart failure and strokes, and cancers. Despite this, the standardized death rates for circulatory diseases have been steadily decreasing since the 1990s. Deaths by ischaemic heart disease fell by 30% from 2014 to 2015 and cancer deaths have been on the decline for over a decade. This positive trend is due to improved healthcare in Bulgaria and better lifestyle choices.

The Population is Declining

The Bulgarian population has been declining from nine million at the end of the 1980s to fewer than seven million by 2018. The primary reason is a low birthrate, compounded by a high rate of emigration. In 2015, over 13,000 citizens were leaving the country compared with only 9,000 foreigners entering. However, most Bulgarians end up immigrating to other European countries, with 0ver 60,000 Bulgarians migrating each year.

One reason for emigration is that the country is the poorest within the European Union, with most citizens unable to support themselves and healthcare in Bulgaria being difficult to access.

Bulgaria is Well Behind the Rest of the EU

Although healthcare in Bulgaria is good by some measures, the country is far behind the rest of the European Union. The quality of work is so low that protests have taken to the streets against low wages, corruption, and high bills. This led to the government resigning, causing more economic instability within the country. The unemployment rates are lower than in crisis-ridden nations; however, because of low wages, more Bulgarians are considering moving to Greece and Spain that have higher unemployment rates. Bulgaria is often referred to as the unhappiest country in the EU.

Bulgaria’s Increased Healthcare Spending

Healthcare in Bulgaria has been heavily altered by the novel coronavirus, with an increase in healthcare spending by 250 million leva or 123 million euros. Half of the increased spending will go to the National Health Insurance Fund that manages insurance and distributes funds to the healthcare system. A significant portion of the money will go to increasing the salaries of frontline medical staff until the end of the year as well as medical and other health personnel state institutions dealing with the pandemic.

Although Bulgaria is far behind the rest of the European Union in many different ways, Bulgaria is a progressive nation with universal healthcare and low hospital bills. With more investments in general practitioners and healthcare facilities, as well as better living conditions and incentives to increase the population, healthcare in Bulgaria will be stronger than ever.

– Breanna Bonner
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Bulgaria
Bulgaria is a country in southeastern Europe, neighboring Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Romania to the north, Greece and Turkey to the south and the Black Sea to the east. The country has been a member of NATO since 2004 and the EU since 2007. After its transition from Soviet control, it has sought to deepen its ties with the West. Bulgaria has improved a lot in its post-communist period from 1990 up to today, yet it still ranks near the bottom of EU lists on life expectancy, income per capita and several other areas. These are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Bulgaria you should know.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Bulgaria

  1. Rural regions are underdeveloped – There is a disparity between rural and urban populations with poverty being prevalent among the former. A lot of people live in cities, the urban population is 74.6 percent because rural regions in the country are very underdeveloped. Nearly two-thirds of poor Bulgarians live in the country and rely on agriculture for jobs. Nearly 26 percent of the workforce in rural areas is above working age, compared to 17 percent in urban areas.
  2. Life expectancy is low –  Life expectancy at birth has increased, but it still remains below the European average by almost 6 years, partially due to the high maternal mortality rate. Bulgaria takes the second to last place with its life expectancy of 74.7 years.
  3. The population is aging – Even though life expectancy is rising, birthrates are low, and Bulgaria’s population is aging along with other European countries. Bulgaria is one of six EU countries where the proportion of people over 65 years old has passed the 20 percent mark. Most elderly live in remote rural areas where access is very limited. They rely solely on pensions that do not meet their needs. More than half of these pensioners live below the poverty line.
  4. There is a lot of emigration – The aging population is one of the reasons for the 12 percent decline in the overall population of Bulgaria from 1990 to 2012. Another reason is emigration, which leads to lower productivity. Factors such as the low income per capita, high unemployment and income inequality push Bulgarians to move to Western countries, resulting in a brain drain.
  5. The transport system is in a good shape – Even though intercity roads are not in top condition, there have been improvements in the transportation system. Large urban areas are connected by public transport networks, and Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, has been continually extending the subway line to connect different parts of the city. Bulgaria is accessible by land, water and air with the Danube river being a transport channel used for commercial purposes.
  6. It is not expensive to live in Bulgaria – Even though the median wage in Bulgaria is significantly lower than other EU member states, the cost of living is low. Sofia ranks 92 out of 105 countries in terms of cost of living. But, to counter that, the minimum wage is roughly 260 euros per month, which is amongst the lowest of the EU member states. Households in Bulgaria have only about half of the purchasing power of other EU countries.
  7. The economy is growing despite doing so slowly. The GDP during the second quarter of 2018 increased by 3.4 percent compared to the same quarter in 2017, according to the National Statistical Institute’s adjusted data. Exports of goods and services grew by 1.7 percent. The unemployment rate in the country decreased from 11.3 in 2013 to 7.2 in 2017.
  8. Bulgaria is ranked 51st according to the Human Development Index (HDI) – Bulgaria’s HDI is higher than its Eastern Europe neighbors Macedonia, Albania and Serbia. The index measures a country’s development based on factors such as life expectancy, the standard of living and education. Bulgaria’s HDI value had an increased 17.1 percent, from 0.694 to 0.813, between 1990 and 2017. It is now in the very high development category.
  9. Children In Bulgaria Face High Poverty Rates – The population of Bulgarians living below the poverty line was 23.4 percent in 2016 with children facing the highest risk of poverty and social exclusion among E.U. member states. Data from 2016 shows that 527,000 children (or 43.7 percent) live in low-income households.
  10. Access to health services remains limited to some groups in the country. Around 12 percent of citizens do not have insurance, and the high costs of out-of-pocket payments limits access for low-income people, the elderly and the Roma minority. Additional barriers to health services for people with low income are traveling distance and the availability of doctors.

The transition from a centralized, planned economy to a free market one has been tumultuous. The country has implemented changes, but it is lagging behind in its development compared to other member states in the EU. These facts about living conditions in Bulgaria focus on what needs to improve and how poverty in Bulgaria has ethnic, gender, age and rural dimensions.

The situation may look pessimistic based on some of these 10 facts about living conditions in Bulgaria, but despite its challenges, Bulgaria has vastly improved and continues to improve. The cultural environment is rich and diverse and tourism is flourishing in many parts of the country. Furthermore, telecommunications are highly developed with Internet speeds being some of the highest in the world.

Overall, these top 10 facts about living conditions in Bulgaria highlight that, while there is room for improvement, the country has great potential to continue developing into a wealthy, prosperous member of the EU.

– Aleksandra Sirakov
Photo: Pixabay