|Monday, 11 December 2023|
Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-09-11
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
Wednesday, September 11, 2002
 Health insurance ruling 'will lead to chaos'By Jean Christou
BUPA International, one of the 12 companies fined by the Protection of Competition Committee for breaching competition law, yesterday warned of chaos in the health insurance sector as a result of the decision.
Nicos Rossos, the agent in Cyprus for BUPA, said the decision would result in higher medical prices, which would have a knock on effect on premiums and cause more work for the insurance companies.
BUPA, whose clients in Cyprus are all foreigners, was fined £32,300 by the competition committee, the second highest charge on the list of 12 companies. The fines, totalling £200,000, ranged from £570 to £49,000 depending on the firm's market share.
Competition Committee president Christodoulos Tselepos said the companies would have to annul contracts they had made with certain clinics after the firms were accused of directing their policyholders to seek healthcare only from approved lists.
However, Rossos said all the decision would do would be to allow clinics to raise their prices. He said BUPA had never adopted a policy of forcing clients into certain clinics or seeing only certain doctors.
"We wrote to the committee a long time ago and told them that BUPA members not only have complete liberty and choice to go to any clinic, any doctor or pharmacy they like, but that BUPA International will reimburse direct," Rossos said.
"If someone goes to a clinic or hospital not on the list, he can go there and receive his treatment and the hospital or clinic will sign the claim form of BUPA and will get the money direct, so there is no difference whatsoever between clinics or hospitals or doctors who are on the list and those who are not in the list."
Rossos said BUPA's worldwide booklet specifically said clinics could send the claims to BUPA and that the insured need not be asked for payment.
"The insured have complete and unreserved freedom to go to any hospital or clinic they like and as a matter of fact we receive many such claims from non listed companies," he said.
Rossos said BUPA would probably challenge the Competition Committee's decision in court because it "is unfair and unjust".
He said that as late as yesterday he had received a claim from a surgeon in Cyprus asking for £500 for an operation, which on the list was priced at just £250.
"So if there is no understanding between clinics and companies, they can charge whatever they like and I can only challenge this in court and I can't go to court every day, so the result will be that insured people will inevitably have to face increased premiums and increased charges because this agreement is not something new, it's the only way you are able to control prices, which are freely entered into and agreed between hospitals, clinic and insurance companies," he said.
He added that insurance companies must be able to say 'no' to certain clinics, citing an incident where a British man was given a prostate examination in Cyprus. "The doctor at a specific clinic said he didn't have time to fill the forms so the client didn't see what was written," Rossos said. "When the man returned to the UK, BUPA was sent a bill for a prostate operation not an examination," he added.
"If you don't have an agreed price list, every day you will have to start discussions with clinics. Tselepos is going to organise chaos," he said. "We will not be able to control prices and will have to start endless discussions and employ more staff to do this."
A spokesman for Atlantic Insurance, which was fined £25,840, and whose clients are also mainly foreigners, said the company had never sent a letter to a client telling them to go to a specific clinic.
"We allow our clients, and it's in the contracts, to visit any doctors they like," the spokesman said. "I don't know how they decided to come up with this decision."
Like the other companies, Atlantic is waiting to see the full text of the Committee's findings before committing itself to action.
"We do not accept the decision and we shall see what will be the outcome of this business, and then we shall decide what we are going to do," the spokesman said. "But for the time being we haven't got any intention of increasing any premiums."
Demis Michaelides, spokesman for the Insurance Association of Cyprus, said they were awaiting the full 28-page decision and that the 12 companies would then meet to decide.
"But we believe the decision may not to be in the interests of our customers," he said. "It's quite possible that premiums will go up, but that depends on the specific policies of each company. But I'm afraid that if the medical sector increases its prices then it's quite possible the bill will be paid in the end by the person who is insured."
Michaelides said doctors and clinics often charged higher prices to patients who were insured. "This is not a blanket accusation against all clinics, but we know this happens," he said.
"Our objective was to have a list of clinics with a defined set of prices, but it's not only about prices. It's the trust we have established with them in the past. There are limits to how much the insurance companies can pay."
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Medical consent forms to be introducedBy Soteris Charalambous
HEALTH Minister Frixos Savvides yesterday expressed his support for the introduction of medical consent forms that aim to provide patients with information about treatment before it is undertaken.
The medical consent forms have been proposed by the Cyprus Medical Association (CMA) and are set to come into practice before the end of the year, although neither Savvides nor the Head of the CMA, Antonis Vassiliou were clear about whether Cabinet approval was needed for the forms.
"I'm not sure if Cabinet approval is needed, I think it is an internal matter (for the CMA)," said Savvides, "In theory these forms should be routine at state hospitals, but the Medical Association is attempting to implement it into the private sector as well."
According to Vassiliou, the introduction of the forms will benefit both patients and doctors by ensuring that the patient, and their families, are fully aware of the type of treatment their doctor is proposing and the implications and risks involved by undertaking it. "The introduction of consent forms will create a dialogue between the doctor and the patient," said Vassiliou, "For example with surgery, the doctor will discuss the possibility of complications, the risks involved with anaesthesia and the possible outcomes following the treatment." Vassiliou added, "It was very important for the patient to know what is going on and to be able to ask questions."
Vassiliou also drew upon the example of cancer patients and the need to let the sufferer know the consequences of the therapy.
The proposal has been made following years of complaints by patients who felt they were unaware of the possible consequences of their treatment and wished to make more informed decisions. Work was carried out with the Health Ministry and a version of the consent form was used during a trial period before the CMA made its proposal. Under the new procedure, next of kin would be asked to sign the consent form in the event of a patient being unable to. In the case of minors requiring treatment, consent would be sought from parents.
Vassiliou stressed that the consent forms were not an attempt by the medical profession to exempt itself from claims of malpractice, adding that, "claims of malpractice would be treated separately." He said he felt that doctors would also benefit from the introduction of the forms by avoiding the situation where patients would complain about the after effects of their treatment because they were not fully aware of the possible consequences of the therapy.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Historic radio station faces closure over failure to renew licenceBy Alex Mita
THE Broadcasting Authority has clamped down on illegal operators by requesting the immediate suspension of operations of Radio Paphos and 11 stations whose licences expired on December 31 last year.
Radio Paphos is a symbol of the island's history, as it was from there that Archbishop Makarios told the public that he was alive and had escaped after the 1974 coup.
But Broadcasting Authority director Neophytos Epaminontas told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that stations broadcasting without a licence were breaking the law.
"Based on broadcasting legislations their licences expired in 2001," Epaminontas said.
"The Broadcasting Authority has done nothing more than to implement the provisions of article 48, which states that anyone operating a station without a licence is breaking the law, and to report the stations to the Attorney-general's office."
Epaminontas said the Broadcasting Authority had rejected Radio Paphos' application for a licence because their owners did not conform to legislation regarding ownership.
"Based on article 19 of the legislation, shareholders and members of their families must not own more than 25 per cent of shares," he said.
"Paphos radio has not conformed to the regulations."
Paphos Radio Manager Fotis Nikolaides told the Cyprus Mail the company had repeatedly tried to sell its shares, but investors were not interested in buying into non-profit making businesses.
Nikolaides claimed other radio stations had lied about selling their shares in order to get their licences.
"Paphos radio was the only station that attempted to meet Broadcasting Authority regulations by trying to sell our shares, because we did not want to break the law" Nikolaides said.
"But unfortunately no one wants to invest into radio stations because they are non-profit making. Other stations pretended to sell their shares to get their licences, but we wanted to do everything by the book."
Nikolaides said the Private Radio Station Association had requested that article 19 be amended and the matter was taken to the House Interior Affairs Committee last January.
"The Cabinet asked the Broadcasting Authority not to pursue the matter until the Interior Committee met after the summer holidays," he said.
"But despite their instructions, Epaminontas reported us to the Attorney- general's office and now we are faced with the danger of being shut down."
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Strike threat at CyTABy a Staff Reporter
EMPLOYEES of the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CyTA) last night warned of possible strike action in ten days' time after the Finance Minister refused to approve their new collective agreement, although both the board and the unions had agreed on the terms.
Speaking after a five-hour meeting, CyTA Employees Union EPOET Permanent Secretary Orestis Vassiliou said unless the agreement was signed within the next ten days they would stage a 24-hour strike on September 20.
Although both unions and management had agreed the terms of the new collective agreement, Finance Minister Takis Klerides had raised some objections. A CyTA spokesman told the Cyprus Mail last night that there were four contentious issues, which the board would send back to the Ministry "to make a case for them".
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Labour MP in trouble again over Cypriot linksBy Jean Christou
BRITISH Conservatives are calling for an investigation into how the Turkish girlfriend of a Greek Cypriot businessman avoided deportation from Britain through alleged lobbying by a Labour MP.
According to the Sunday Times, Alan Meale MP allegedly traded favours for cash by lobbying to allow Ferahnaz Ulusoy, 36, to remain in Britain.
Ulusoy is the girlfriend of Greek Cypriot businessman and Labour donor Demetrios 'Jimmy' Apostolou, and mother of his six-month-old child.
The Sunday Timesclaimed that Meale urged the Home Office to allow her to remain in Britain after Apostolou made a substantial donation to the Labour party. Ulusoy, a former au pair, was granted an extension to her visa two years ago, although she herself had no links to Meale.
Apostolou, said to be an old friend of British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, allegedly made a substantial donation of more than £5,000 to Labour in 1999 and both Prescott and Meale are among a group of British politicians who have enjoyed a series of trips to Cyprus paid for by Greek Cypriot organisations. Meale has declared five such visits since 1997.
Ulusoy first went to Britain in 1995 on a two-year visa to work as an au pair. In June 1997, weeks before her visa expired, she married a UK resident but in 1998 she was ordered to leave after it emerged the marriage had broken down.
The Sunday Times said that in September 2000 Meale intervened, arguing that Ulusoy was back with her husband.
He told the paper that the link between Ulusoy and Apostolou was a coincidence and that he did not know they were friends at the time. "I think she phoned me at home. She told me her marriage had not failed," the MP told the Sunday Times.
The paper said, however, that despite Meale's statements that the Turkish woman and the Greek Cypriot businessman were not friends at the time, there was evidence to suggest he had attended social events where both were present before he lobbied the Home Office.
"Meale's Cypriot links have got him in trouble before," the paper added. "In 1998, he was criticised when, as an environment minister, he lobbied his own department on behalf of Tony Kleanthous a Greek Cypriot millionaire and chairman of Barnet football club."
Apostolou said he had not given money to Labour since 1999 and would not comment on his relationship with either Meale or Ulusoy. "It is up to me who I give money to and who I sleep with," he said.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Anastassiades repeats appeal for national unityBy a Staff Reporter
DISY leader Nicos Anastassiades yesterday repeated his party's invitation to all political forces to a dialogue aiming in the immediate creation of a government of national unity.
Speaking at a news conference, Anastassiades said the aim was for all political forces to contribute to the reunification of the country and its accession to the EU without problems or divisions.
Concerning his party's support for KISOS leader and presidential candidate Yiannakis Omirou, Anastassiades said many issue would become clear today, after his meeting with Omirou.
"The signs are good, not to say excellent, but it would be good to wait for Wednesday's meeting for the future course of negotiations to become clear," Anastassiades said.
He said what would be important in any co-operation with KISOS would be to define a comprehensive political proposal with radical positions on the serious problems of daily life.
Anastassiades noted that there were no differences concerning the Cyprus problem and EU accession, so the main discussion point in today's meeting would be the participation of the parties, which would agree to the creation of a government of the widest possible acceptance.
He added that DISY was making an opening to society, proposing to transgress personal ambitions and other differences for the achievement of unity and co-operation of all political forces in light of the critical times the country would be going through.
The new era, challenges, and the new world order wanted a flexible state that would be politically integrated in European affairs, he said.
"To achieve these ambitious goals we have to keep personal ambitions and plans under control and open the way to a new generation of politicians, free of the baggage of the past," Anastassiades said.
DISY's proposal aims for the creation of a government of national unity for the critical and transitory period of the next five years, he added.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Nikiforos plans going aheadBy a Staff Reporter
PLANNING is going ahead for the annual Nikiforos military exercise, despite ongoing negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem, Defence Minister Socratis Hasikos said yesterday.
Hasikos, however, refused to confirm if the Greek Air Force would be taking part in October's exercise, adding, "maybe they will be one of the exercise's elements".
He said it was not the time to engage in discussions on whether the Greek fighters would participate.
Concerning suggestions the exercise might be postponed due to the ongoing Cyprus talks, the minister said there were always discussions for a solution, but the National Guard continued its exercises and training according to plan.
"Everyone hopes that a solution can be found, and all this would be unnecessary, but as long as occupying troops remain in Cyprus we do not have the right to remain inactive or downgrade our armed forces' training," Hasikos said.
Hasikos would not comment on whether pressure was being applied to reduce armaments because of the talks, saying the Republic wanted above all to maintain a calm climate and that it would continue working upon this basis.
Asked about reports that Turkish Cypriot workers employed in the free areas had been engaged in projects near National Guard installations, Hasikos said there was no issue, as Turkish Cypriots were also Cypriot citizens.
He added such matters were only investigated if there was information that such workers were not Turkish Cypriots but Turkish settlers.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002