The Austrian Health Care System
Health care in Austria is characterised by the cooperation of a large number of actors. Competencies in the health care sector are generally regulated by law. The main actors with regard to health at federal level are the Austrian Parliament (which consists of the National Council and the Federal Council), the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection (BMASGK), the social security institutions and advocacy groups (social partners: employers’ and employees’ representatives, as well as professional associations).
As far as legislation and its enforcement are concerned, the Federal Government plays a central role; however, many competencies are delegated to the provinces or to the social security institutions. The Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection prepares laws, is responsible for the protection of public health as well as overall health policy and functions as facilitator between the different players in the health care system, and also as decision maker and supervisory authority. The Federal Government is in charge of defining the legislation for out-patient care (physicians in individual practices). Responsibility for in-patient care (provided in hospitals) is shared between the federal and the provincial level: the Federal Government lays down the legislative framework whilst the provinces are in charge of defining legislation on enforcement as well as ensuring implementation. All regulations regarding pharmaceuticals, pharmacies and medical devices as well health professions (for example education of physicians) are the responsibility of the Federal Government, while structural policy requires a considerable degree of coordination and makes joint action at federal and regional levels in many fields of management, planning and financing of the health care system absolutely necessary.