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Tuesday's papers: Sote strife, property tax breaks and HIV alert

The ongoing controversy over social and health care reform, tax breaks for property investors and a spike in HIV infections are reported in Tuesday's papers.

Päivystys -kyltti keskussairaalan edustalla.
Finnish healthcare is set for a shakeup. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

It's no secret that the government's reform of health and social care is not the most popular legislation around. Most analysis suggests that the package might not survive a vote in parliament, such is the discontent in the National Coalition Party. But getting to that stage might well be tricky.

Helsingin Sanomat reports on Tuesday that the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district reckons the 'freedom of choice' law is in trouble. Last week parliament's constitutional law committee said that this part of the reform, which opens up more of Finnish care services to the private sector, needs to be compatible with EU law, and any potential impacts of EU legal interpretations checked against the Finnish constitution.

In simple terms, that means that if EU competition law suggests that public sector providers must be turned into companies once 'freedom of choice' is implemented, that would be incompatible with Finland's constitution. According to Janne Aaltonen of HUS, that makes a successful implementation of the legislation unlikely before the conclusion of this parliamentary term.

If the government decides to ask the EU Commission for its view, the delay would likely be fatal.

"The answer likely wouldn't come during this parliamentary term, so the bill wouldn't go through, suggested Aaltonen.

The story also includes the now almost-obligatory snippy quote from an expert, with professor Jussi Huttunen (a former director of the National Institute for Health and Welfare) offering a brutal take down.

"There's never been a reform prepared this poorly in Finland's political history," said Huttunen. "I don't blame the officials but the politicians, who have created this conflict between the goals of the reform and the constitution."

HIV uptick

One of the most-read stories on Ilta-Sanomat's website on Tuesday morning is based on a statement from the Red Cross drawing attention to a rise in HIV cases in eastern regions. The situation in those regions differs from that in other parts of the country, as the main group of HIV and Aids patients is older men.

The average age of Finnish men contracting HIV has risen above 60, and public health authorities are concerned. They remind Finns that the risk of contracting HIV through unprotected sex is higher in Russia, where many people with HIV do not have access to medication which reduces the risk of transmission.

Those seeking clarity about their HIV status can get tested by visiting the Red Cross in Joensuu, Seinäjoki, Kuopio, Jyväskylä and Turku, or Hivpoint in Helsinki, Tampere and Oulu.

Property investors' tax breaks

Kauppalehti takes on a familiar theme from the business pages in recent months: the risks and tax advantages in the property market, as reported by Yle News in April. The paper runs a column outlining the interest, maintenance and renovation costs investors can deduct from their tax bills, but which owner-occupiers can't.

That has pushed up the age of first-time buyers, according to KL, as investors use this largesse from the tax man to hoover up the studio apartments in the capital city region. That means first time buyers are now more likely to purchase two and three room flats, and encourages housing companies to pool debt via communal loans.

The solution here, according to KL, is to eliminate the tax breaks. That would calm the market and reduce risks, according to the paper.

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