In a bid to stimulate ‘medical tourism’, Macedonia plans to offer generous subsidies and tax breaks to foreign and local hospitals setting up facilities for treating private foreign patients
Macedonia’s parliament is expected to approve a government-proposed bill to establish tax-free health-care “zones” for foreigners.
The bill entered parliamentary procedure last week is likely to pass soon.
The bill will allow foreign – and domestic – healthcare companies to build hospitals in Macedonia exclusively for the use of foreign private patients.
To lure investors, the government is offering subsidies worth up to 50 per cent of the cost of the investment. For example, if a company plans to build a facility worth €50 million, the state will cover €25 million.
The goal is “the development of medical tourism, increasing the level of healthcare in Macedonia, attracting foreign capital… introducing new medical procedures, transfer of knowhow and technologies,” Health Minister Nikola Todorov wrote while submitting the bill.
The new hospitals and their employees will also not have to pay income tax for ten years. Exemptions from VAT and from customs taxes on imported medical and other equipment are other incentives.
If investors also open medical training facilities, where both Macedonian and foreign doctors can work and be schooled, the state plans to prolong the package of benefits by up to 15 years.
The government plans to open the first “healthcare zone” by 2017. Unofficially, the first one is planned in the vicinity of the capital, Skopje.
Patients from neighboring Kosovo will not be allowed to use the facilities, however, Todorov has warned. Kosovo nationals are the most frequent foreign users of medical facilities in Macedonia.
Todorov said the ban was needed to protect existing private medical facilities in the country that benefit from a steady flow of patients from Kosovo.
The bill comes amid frequent protests against the condition of state healthcare and follows calls for Todorov to resign.
In December, Todorov survived a no-confidence vote in parliament submitted by the opposition in connection with deaths of patients last year, attributed to poor healthcare standards. –
Source : www.balkaninsight.com
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