The COVID-19 pandemic facilitated a long-expected paradigm shift in the European Union's perception of health and healthcare. It has been proved that health policy decisions cannot be kept within a nation-state framework only and that a new vision and strengthened community competencies are needed to cope with public health crises.
Traditionally, EU member states have long been opposed to a greater role for the European institutions in health policy. Notwithstanding, growing disparities with alarming inequalities as to the health status of people across the 27 EU member states, and the differences in these people’s access to quality healthcare, have the potential to seriously undermine the fundamental right to health.
The pandemic made it overwhelmingly clear that health is essential when it comes to the fair, resilient and sustainable development of our societies. Developing health systems indicators, a pharmaceutical strategy for Europe and a European cancer plan could be valid building blocks to construct a solid Health Union.
This policy brief presents the case of Hungary, with a look at its chronically underfunded and poorly performing health sector and an analysis of the national attitudes towards the European Health Union. Consultations with health professionals, local administrators and civil society evidence that the creation of an EU Health Union could contribute to the catching up of the ailing national healthcare systems. A majority of the Hungarian society would see the European Health Union as a driving force to improve health outcomes in their country and are supportive of more European integration in this domain.
Based on this, six areas of action are identified: planning, communication, joint research, equal access, primary prevention, and funding.