Finnish government agrees to push back social and health care reform

The Finnish government has decided to postpone the implementation of both the reform of regional administration and the reform of social and health care services in order to address the flaws in its bill to expand patients’ rights to choose their social and health care service provider.

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre) on Wednesday confirmed that minor revisions will not suffice to alleviate the concerns of the Parliament’s Constitutional Law Committee - informed helsinkitimes.

The government, he announced, will consequently unveil an entirely new bill on patients’ freedom of choice in the first half of next year and will assuredly take both reforms over the finish line.

“The necessary amendments will be made, and the [social and health care] reform will be implemented on 1 January, 2020. The regional elections [will take place] in October, 2018,” he stated on Twitter on Wednesday.

The Constitutional Law Committee issued its damning report on the bill to expand patients’ rights to choose their social and health care service provider on 29 June, 2017.

The Finnish government initially reacted to the report by assuring that the constitutional shortcomings will not result in delays in the implementation of the reforms. The original plan was to organise the regional elections in January, 2018, and implement the social and health care reform in January, 2019.

Sipilä, however, conceded one day later that the bill requires more attention than was apparent upon a cursory review.

Petteri Orpo (NCP), the Minister of Finance, also confirmed the revised schedule yesterday and reminded that high-quality legislative work will be crucial for implementing the reforms successfully.

The Constitutional Law Committee also floated in its report the idea of allowing large municipalities to produce social and health care services independently instead of transferring the responsibility to the counties that are to be established as part of the regional administration reform. The Centre, which has been the main advocate of establishing the 18 autonomous counties, has already voiced its reservations about the proposal.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

Photo: Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva

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