Healthcare in Bulgaria has become more accessible, patients’ unmet needs for healthcare have decreased, over 80% of people have access to their GP within the same or the next day, and our country is in first place in the European Union by provision of hospitals per 1 million people.

These are part of the results of a joint study by the Research Center “Trend” and the Expert Club for Economics and Politics (EKIP) on the topic of access to health care in Bulgaria.

The research is nationally representative and was conducted in the period July 5-13, 2022 among 1,005 people using the face-to-face method.

“In Bulgaria, there are 53 hospitals per 1 million people, and according to this indicator our country ranks first in the European Union”, commented Arkadi Sharkov from EKIP. EU averages are roughly around 26.

According to the survey, Bulgarians mostly disapprove of additional payment for medicines (20 percent of those interviewed), with 53% seeing a serious problem with the prices for examinations. 27 percent did not have the opportunity to visit a specialist doctor due to lack of financial means, and 19 percent stopped taking medicine again due to lack of money.

Health care costs

The main dissatisfaction of patients in Bulgaria with the health care system comes from co-payments. 29% state that expensive health care is the main reason they are dissatisfied with the health care system. 14% specifically mention the high prices of medicines. 13% define their bad treatment towards them as a reason for dissatisfaction and a smaller percentage of people point to the lack of personnel, inadequate treatment, corruption, bad legislative decisions, the draining of the NHIF, etc.

In the period 2015-2019, drug costs fell by four percent. In 2019, despite the reduction of the percentage, the amount on an annual basis for additional payment for health for one household is BGN 460-500, 60-80 percent of which is for additional payment for medicines, Arkadi Sharkov pointed out.

In Bulgaria, out-of-pocket payments for healthcare in 2019 accounted for 39% of total healthcare costs, which is down from 43% in 2015. However, the rate of direct out-of-pocket payments remains high compared to the EU average of 15.5%.

Access to health care

The survey shows that healthcare in Bulgaria has become more accessible between 2014 and 2019 in terms of time, logistics and finances. 37% of Bulgarians are satisfied with access to health care, and 47% are not satisfied.

More than 55 percent of our compatriots have the opportunity to visit their personal doctor the same day, 25 percent – the next day. With a specialist doctor, the picture is almost the same, commented Dimitar Ganev from “Trend”. People who wait more than a month for a specialist are only 4 percent.

In terms of hospital admissions, over 50% of people were admitted within a day and another 40% within a few days. According to 43%, the number of hospitals in Bulgaria is sufficient, and according to 46%, there is no need to open new ones.

Bulgaria is in one of the last places in the negative ranking (which is good, the experts explained), in connection with waiting lists for hospital admission in 2019 as well. Only 4.9 percent expressed dissatisfaction with this indicator. Just over 2% are dissatisfied with the distance and transport to the hospital.