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Health in Slovenia : highlights

Life expectancy in Slovenia has increased markedly since 2000, but in 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic temporarily erased a year’s worth of gains. The Slovenian health system provides near universal coverage and a broad benefits package.

Voluntary health insurance plays a large role in covering co-payments levied on services; this also confers a considerable degree of financial protection from out-of-pocket payments.

The pandemic exacerbated or laid bare health system weaknesses, including workforce shortages, long waiting times, ageing hospital facilities and fragmented and underfunded long-term care.

Slovenia’s health status

Life expectancy in Slovenia had increased by over five years between 2000 and 2019. However, in 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic reversed this trend: life expectancy fell from 81.6 years in 2019 to 80.6 in 2020. Stroke, ischaemic heart disease and lung cancer are usually the main causes of mortality, but Covid-19 was responsible for the largest number of deaths in 2020.

Risk factors

More than one fifth of Slovenian adolescents were overweight or obese in 2018. Alcohol intake among both adults and adolescents ranks above the average across EU countries, with binge drinking much more prevalent among male adults. Smoking prevalence has decreased for both adults and adolescents over the last decade, but over one in six adults are still daily smokers. The increasing popularity and use of e-cigarettes is also a concern.

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Slovenia’s health system

Health expenditure per capita has risen marginally over the last few years, but it remains well below the rate across the EU as a whole, as does spending as a share of GDP. Public financing of the health system accounted for 73% of health spending in 2019. Out-of-pocket spending is among the lowest in the EU, however, due mainly to extensive uptake of voluntary health insurance to cover co-payments.

Effectiveness

Mortality from preventable causes remains above the EU average. In contrast, mortality from treatable causes is lower than the EU average, indicating that the healthcare system is generally effective in providing care for people with potentially fatal conditions.

Accessibility

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, unmet needs for medical care were low, at 2.9% of the population, with waiting times the primary driver. In 2020, the demand for Covid-19-related care often led to delayed or forgone consultations and treatment for other health issues. Around 24% of the population reported forgone medical care during the first 12 months of the pandemic.

Resilience

The Covid-19 pandemic revealed several resilience challenges, including workforce shortages and underdeveloped long-term care infrastructure prompting plans for more investment. Slovenia accelerated its vaccination campaign in spring 2021, and at the end of August 2021, 43% of the population had received two vaccine doses (or equivalent).

OECD/European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies (2021), Slovenia: Country Health Profile 2021, State of Health in the EU, OECD Publishing, Paris/European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, Brussels.

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