Economist appointed Slovenia's new health minister
Valentina Prevolnik Rupel, a 52-year-old expert on healthcare economics, was appointed Slovenia's new health minister on 13 October, three months after the previous minister, Danijel Bešič Loredan, was forced out over what Prime Minister Robert Golob said was a divergence of views on health reform.
Prevolnik Rupel has most recently served as a state secretary at the Health Ministry, a post that Golob appointed her to when he temporarily took over at the ministry. She has also been a member of the strategic council advising him on health reform.
An economist, Prevolnik Rupel earned a PhD degree at the Ljubljana School of Economics and Business in 2008 with a thesis on the relationship between the quality of life and efficiency of allocation of funds in healthcare.
Before joining the ministry, she worked as a researcher at the Institute for Economic Research in Ljubljana focusing on healthcare and long-term care. In the past she had also served as an advisor to a health minister and to a director of the public health insurer.
In recent years, she has focused on measuring health outcomes and defining quality indicators and value-based care, with a broader focus on healthcare financing and health insurance, and health technology evaluation, according to information on the ministry's website.
Setting out her vision before the relevant parliamentary committee, she prioritised accessibility of services, quality, and a reform of the basket of services, as well as tackling the problem of patients who don't have a named GP.
She promised a comprehensive and a step-by-step approach to deal with the healthcare system as a whole in cooperation with all stakeholders, something that many of her predecessors had promised but failed in.
She raised some eyebrows when she mentioned a reform of the basket of services covered by health insurance. She explained that a redefinition of the services - which are covered from mandatory and which from the soon-to-be-reformed supplementary insurance - was necessary.
In her first statement after being sworn in, she said the ministry would resume the work started in recent months, revealing that they are working on an emergency bill that would contain a number of measures.
Presenting his pick for the next minister to MPs, Golob said that Prevolnik Rupel had the best insight into the challenges of healthcare, which made her the best choice for the job.
He also noted that as an expert she enjoys the support of healthcare stakeholders. Indeed, many of them see it as a plus that unlike many of her predecessors she is not a medical doctor.
Golob is confident that she will manage to cut wait times and enable access to a GP to more patients, while her main task will be to introduce quality of health services into the way they are financed.
The coalition parties hailed Rupel's competences, but stressed that she must immediately continue the work that has been started and be efficient with the Left calling on her to safeguard public healthcare.
Meanwhile, the two opposition parties stated their case against the nominee. The Democrats (SDS) argued healthcare reform was not her goal, while New Slovenia (NSi) said that health policy did not depend on the minister alone, but on the entire coalition.