By Havva Kara Aydin
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey's social security reform is one of the milestones in the country's history that has been embracing all the citizens with easy access to healthcare services since 2008.
The reform was one of the promises of then-Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan before 2007 general elections. He had pledged to provide equal health service for every Turkish citizen in 2006, and the new social security reform came into effect on Oct. 1, 2008.
"Within the scope of the public health insurance, everyone can choose any hospital, private or public," Erdogan had said, while introducing the new system in 2006.
"Social Insurances and General Health Insurance Act is a very important milestone in citizens' access to health services in Turkey,” said Harun Kirilmaz, an associate professor at the Department of Health Management at Sakarya University.
"Healthcare service outlays in Turkey are largely covered by public health insurance and citizens do not have to spend large sums of money from their pocket," Kirilmaz told Anadolu Agency.
Comparing the health system of Turkey with the one in the U.S., he said: " In the U.S., it is almost impossible to have access to health services for low-income families, families with children, pregnant, disabled and elderly people, without spending on their own or via private health insurance."
He said although the U.S. spends a huge sum of money for health services, the citizens are far from satisfied in terms of access to health services, when compared to Turkey.
The charts below show the expenditure of healthcare system for Turkey and the U.S.;
Turkey’s healthcare system expenditure, 2017 (million $).
U.S. healthcare system expenditure 2017, (million $)
Private health insurance
Children's Health Insurance Program
Ministry of Defense
Department of Veterans Affairs
Other Party Payers and Programs
Public Health Activities
Before the reform got effective in Turkey, the social security services were institutionalized under three categories, namely Social Security Administration (SSK), Pension Fund (ES) and Social Security Organization for Artisans and Self-Employed, (Bag-Kur). At that time, people were entitled to go to specific hospitals, even during emergency situations.
With new social security reform, all Turkish citizens are covered and entitled to go to any health service place.
Kirilmaz pointed out the importance of the financial management of the system, saying: "Attention should be paid to the provision of services that are important for the general population and the general health insurance."
Mensura Kolcak, head of the Department of Economic Policies at Ataturk University, emphasized serious financial difficulties of advanced social security systems around the world and said: "It is necessary to implement multidimensional policies to overcome the financial problems."
The social security package was considered one of the biggest reform packages in Turkey’s history and crucial changes have been made to reach all Turkish citizens with this law.
“This package concerns 73 million citizens of the homeland, from a child in swaddling clothes, to our elderly people, our pensions, our farmers, everyone living in Turkey,” Erdogan had said while introducing the new system during his party's group meeting.