Centre and National Coalition reach compromise on freedom of choice

Annika Saarikko, the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, and Antti Kaikkonen, the chairperson of the Centre Parliamentary Group, were mobbed by reporters after a meeting of the Centre Parliamentary Group in Helsinki on Thursday, 19 October.

The Centre and National Coalition’s parliamentary groups announced yesterday they have reached a long-anticipated compromise on a bill to increase customers’ freedom of choice over social and health care service providers - writes helsinkitimes.fi.

The protracted negotiations leading up to the compromise reportedly strained relations between the two parliamentary groups to the brink of collapse.

Antti Kaikkonen, the chairperson of the Centre Parliamentary Group, estimated that the ruling parliamentary groups are likely to have to continue their work on the reform and reminded that experts and other stakeholders are set to comment on the compromise in the days and weeks to come.

“[The bill] isn’t entirely without its problems,” he said, summing up the sentiments of his party comrades. “That’s why we demand that the feedback be taken into consideration and that revisions be made if necessary.”

The main bone of contention in the negotiations was the eligibility of service vouchers.

The National Coalition was demanding that customers be granted a “subjective right” to request service vouchers if they prefer to get the social and health care services they need from an alternative service provider. The Centre, on the other hand, was concerned that such expansive rights would enable private service providers to hog an excessive share of the market.

The compromise prescribes that regional governments are required to introduce the service vouchers but only offer them to customers meeting a certain set of criteria.

The service vouchers are to be introduced in stages, with vouchers for non-urgent surgical procedures to be granted as of the beginning of 2022 and the vouchers for services provided by health care centres as of the beginning of 2020.

Kauppalehti on Thursday reported that the revised proposal to increase customers’ freedom of choice will offer private providers of social and health care services access to a market worth roughly 5.75 billion euros.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

Photo: Martti Kainulainen – Lehtikuva

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