One of the flagship reforms of the current Government, the reform of the social welfare and healthcare services system in Finland (the SOTE-reform), was found contrary to the Finnish constitution by the Committee for Constitutional Law, with only roughly a month to the next parliamentary elections in mid-April 2015.
The reform, which aim was to redirect the responsibility for both basic primary health care and specialized medical care to five large administrative SOTE-regions (instead of some 300 municipalities), was envisioned to guarantee citizens equal access to health care of good quality and considered an important component in the Government’s efforts to constrict the sustainability gap by controlling costs. However, in its first statement on 19 February 2015, the Committee for Constitutional Law found that the introduction of the SOTE-regions deprives municipalities and their citizens of their constitutional right to influence decision-making. In an effort to still succeed with the reform, major amendments to the proposal were introduced by the Social and Health Committee at a breakneck pace. However, the Committee for Constitutional Law did not find the amendments sufficient, as it in its second statement last week remained firm in its view that also the amended version of the SOTE-reform is unconstitutional. The reading of the Government Bill in Parliament was thereafter discontinued.
The SOTE-reform’s demise is a major set-back for the Government currently in power and is stirring up public debate regarding the political inability to take difficult political decisions and push through much needed legal reforms. Failure aside, the health care and social welfare sector is in evident need of structural reform, which in effect guarantees the topic a prominent place in political debate in the upcoming elections and most probably in the next Government’s program.
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