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Management im GesundheitswesenDimova A, Rohova M, Moutafova E, Atanasova E, Koeva S, Panteli D, van Ginneken E. Bulgaria: Health system review. Health Systems in Transition, 14(3):1–186.

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Bulgaria: Health System Review

Dimova A, Rohova M, Moutafova E, Atanasova E, Koeva S, Panteli D, van Ginneken E. 
 Health Systems in Transition, 14(3):1–186.





In the last 20 years, demographic development in Bulgaria has been characterized by population decline, a low crude birth rate, a low fertility rate, a high mortality rate and an ageing population. A stabilizing political situation since the early 2000s and an economic upsurge since the mid-2000s were important factors in the slight increase of the birth and fertility rates and the slight decrease in standardized death rates. In general, Bulgaria lags behind European Union (EU) averages in most mortality and morbidity indicators. Life expectancy at birth reached 73.3 years in 2008 with the main three causes of death being diseases of the circulatory system, malignant neoplasms and diseases of the respiratory system. One of the most important risk factors overall is smoking, and the average standardized death rate for smoking-related causes in 2008 was twice as high as the EU15 average.

The Bulgarian health system is characterized by limited statism. The Ministry of Health is responsible for national health policy and the overall organization and functioning of the health system and coordinates with all ministries with relevance to public health. The key players in the insurance system are the insured individuals, the health care providers and the third party payers, comprising the National Health Insurance Fund, the single payer in the social health insurance (SHI) system, and voluntary health insurance companies (VHICs). Health financing consists of a public–private mix. Health care is financed from compulsory health insurance contributions, taxes, out-ofpocket (OOP) payments, voluntary health insurance (VHI) premiums, corporate payments, donations, and external funding. Total health expenditure (THE) as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) increased from 5.3% in 1995 to 7.3% in 2008. At the latter date it consisted of 36.5% OOP payments, 34.8% SHI, 13.6% Ministry of Health expenditure, 9.4% municipality expenditure and 0.3% VHI. Informal  payments in the health sector represent a substantial part of total OOP payments (47.1% in 2006).


The health system is economically unstable and health care establishments, most notably hospitals, are suffering from underfunding. Planning of outpatient health care is based on a territorial principle. Investment for state and municipal health establishments is financed from the state or municipal share in the establishment’s capital. In the first quarter of 2009, health workers accounted for 4.9% of the total workforce. Compared to other countries, the relative number of physicians and dentists is particularly high but the relative number of nurses remains well below the EU15, EU12 and EU27 averages. Bulgaria is faced with increased professional mobility, which is becoming particularly challenging. There is an oversupply of acute care beds and an undersupply of long-term care and rehabilitation services. Health care reforms after 1989 focused predominantly on ambulatory care and the restructuring of the hospital sector is still pending on the government agenda. Citizens as well as medical professionals are dissatisfied with the health care system and equity is a challenge not only because of differences in health needs, but also because of socioeconomic disparities and territorial imbalances. The need for further reform is pronounced, particularly in view of the low health status of the population. Structural reforms and increased competitiveness in the system as well as an overall support of reform concepts and measures are prerequisites for successful progress.





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