The Hungarian health system is based on a health insurance fund, which provides health coverage for residents; moreover, there are also private healthcare institutes offering easily accessible, high quality paying services.
The national organisation responsible for the healthcare fund’s administration is the National Institute of Health Insurance Fund Management (NEAK) working under the supervision of the Ministry of Human Capacities. Its funding comes from employers’ and employees’ payroll contributions and tax revenues.
The health system is coordinated by another national body in this Ministry, the National Healthcare Service Centre (ÁEEK), which is responsible primarily for care coordination, hospital planning and medical licensing. Thanks to legislative measures over the past two decades, health outcomes in Hungary are improving from year to year, with nowadays a life expectancy of 76 years at birth. The government implemented the National Health Programme in 2018: this initiative details health policy priorities in the fields of the leading causes of death in Hungary, namely cardiovascular and oncological diseases, as well as a focus on rheumatological diseases and mental and child health.
Hungary’s health spending primarily constitutes inpatient care (31%) and pharmaceuticals (also 31%), both of which are above the EU average. A forthcoming challenge of the industry is workforce shortage, which is due to the ageing of healthcare workers on the one hand and the emigration of specialists and nurses, on the other. In response to this, the government raised salaries by an unprecedentedly significant amount, resulting in a slowdown in the outflow. In addition, Hungary received considerable EU funding in the last budget period in order to modernise health infrastructure and services.
The government has also taken steps to improve its population’s nutrition, due to a relatively high level of overweight and inadequate nutrient intakes, meaning a cautionary 20% of overweight and obese adults within the population. Therefore, a decade ago, a product tax was introduced on unhealthy food (also called the ‘chips tax’ by Hungarians), resulting in many changing their eating habits in favour of healthier alternatives.
Despite constant challenges regarding healthcare, there are some fields where Hungary demonstrates impressive figures, for instance an immunisation rate of 99% for childhood vaccinations, 5% over the EU average. Moreover, the proportion of residents reporting unmet needs for medical examination is low, around 1%, with authorities also aiming to simplify access to medicines, an issue that has attracted attention in recent years.