HELSINKI Dec 21 The parties in Finland's ruling
coalition agreed on Wednesday on a complex reform of health care
and regional administration after years of negotiations that
almost toppled the centre-right government last year.
The deal is likely to soothe fears over the government's
ability to pass difficult reforms as the Nordic country's
economy slowly returns to growth after a decade of stagnation.
The reform aims to curb future health care costs by around 3
billion euros ($3.1 billion) as Finland struggles with an ageing
population. Overall, the government plans to find savings worth
10 billion euros to balance public finances over the long term.
The reform opens up business prospects for private players
in the health care system and moves responsibility for the
provision of services to 18 new health care regions, starting
from 2019, from more than 300 local governments at present.
Prime Minister Juha Sipila threatened to quit last year due
to disagreements over the reform among the three coalition
parties - the Centre Party with agrarian roots, the nationalist
Finns party and the pro-business NCP.
The coalition later agreed on the general reforms, but they
had struggled to finalise the details of the package.
"The government now has a common solution on the whole
package and the historic reform will finally happen," Sipila,
leader of the Centre Party, said, adding that the relevant bills
would be sent to parliament in the spring.
The Finnish government has faced demonstrations and strikes
over its austerity plans, including a hard-fought labour reform
deal which cuts workers' benefits and increases working hours.
($1 = 0.9591 euros)
(Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Gareth Jones)