EU: Effects of economic crisis and austerity measures on the right to health

March 23, 2015


The European Parliament recently published a report on the effects of the economic crisis and resulting austerity measures on various rights. With regards to the right to health, the report shows that the reforms have negatively affected the right to health.


All of the observed Member States introduced measures affecting access to healthcare. However, Belgium was the only Member State which introduced only measures to alleviate hardships, without any of the interventions removing services. In Greece and Cyprus, massive reforms to the healthcare systems were expected, whereas, in other countries, e.g. Portugal, the interventions were only aimed at parts of the system.

Other measures were directed towards:

  • restricting access to healthcare;
  • introducing or increasing participation fees;
  • reorganisation of hospitals and healthcare providers;
  • reducing salaries and freezing the employment of staff;
  • interventions into the costs of drugs and other services;
  • administrative reforms.

In some Member States, a few measures were introduced to alleviate the burden of the newly-introduced restrictions. The impacts of measures were seen in:

  • reduced access to healthcare;
  • additional financial burden for citizens;
  • reduction in the number of medical staff and facilities;
  • increases waiting times for appointments and surgeries;
  • alternatives to public health care, e.g. private services or NGO-run services;
  • increased unmet medical needs;
  • decreased preventive and protective care;
  • changes in the pharmaceuticals market – including shortages in supplies and decreased prices.

Poor and homeless people, older people, people with disabilities and their families, women, and undocumented migrants, are among the groups which were disproportionately affected by the measures imposed.

Access the report (see page 49 and further)