The contracting of private health insurance in Portugal in recent years has increased at a rapid pace, with growth last year of some 10% to 3.4 million policies, according to the Portuguese Association of Insurers (APS).
At a time when the country’s National Health Service (SNS) is short of doctors in some specialties and the number of people without a family doctor is increasing, an official APS source said in response to Lusa that the contracting of private health insurance “has evolved at a fast pace, fully confirming the long and consistent growth trend of this type of insurance in Portugal.
“In addition to this enlargement of the insured population, which has had an expansion of almost 75% since 2010, the evidence is that there is also a growing use of its coverage,” the association adds.
Between 2010 and 2019, it notes, the percentage of insured people who have used insurance contracts has risen from 53% to 61%.
“And while it is a fact that the pandemic temporarily constrained the population’s access to private health services, the reality is that from 2022 the exact opposite occurred, causing a very significant increase in the frequency of use of health insurance, which has been accentuated until now,” explains the APS.
On the impact of inflation and how the reduction in purchasing power has affected the sector, the association replied that “it is not possible to establish a direct correlation between these conjunctural variables and the contracting of health insurance,” which has overcome situations of very different kinds for households.
The demand for health insurance, according to the association, “remains very active” both for individual insurance policies taken out by households and individuals, and for group insurance taken out mainly by companies for their employees.
In terms of the price of health insurance, “it is publicly recognised that it has been increasing, not only due to the current level of inflation, but also due to structural pressures on the costs of this insurance, arising from demographic, scientific and cultural trends,” the APS states.
Asked about the turnover of private hospitals, the APS president, Óscar Gaspar, said that it had no information, in the current context of inflation, which also generates higher costs for healthcare units, but he noted that in 2023 “the data continues to point to quite high growth rates in terms of activity at all levels, both in emergency, surgery and specialty consultations.”
As Lusa reported on Thursday, the number of users without a family doctor in the National Health Service’s (SNS) increased by 29% in one year, and is now almost 1.7 million, due to doctors retiring and the service’s lack of capacity to attract specialists.
According to the SNS transparency portal, in April 2022 a total of 1,299,016 million people had no allocated family doctor, a figure that increased to 1,678,226 a year later.
As a result, the number of people covered by these general and family medicine specialists fell from around 9.1 million to just over 8.8 million in the same period, official figures show.
On Saturday marches will take place in Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra against the “degradation of the SNS” – called by several trade unions and with the participation of patient movements, in an initiative to demand “serious investment” in this public service.
The APHP represents the five largest private health groups in Portugal – CUF, Luz, Lusíadas, Trofa and Hospitais Particulares do Algarve, as well as other smaller ones.