GÁBOR SZABÓ FERENC BOJÁN
Hungary is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It covers approximately thirty-six thousand square miles and has a relatively homogeneous population of 10.3 million (as of 1990). The population is increasingly urban (60 percent), with more than 2 million people living in the capital, Budapest. The Hungarian economy was almost exclusively agricultural until after World War II, when great emphasis was placed on industrial development. Traditionally, all sectors of Hungarian life were influenced heavily by Germany.
Hungarian medicine was also rooted in the West, with strong ties to Austria and Germany before World War II. Medical doctors were well trained and concentrated in the large cities. They were usually in private practice and often associated with insurance companies. The number of hospital beds was comparable to that in other European countries. However, access to health service was very selective, dependent primarily on the socioeconomic status of each individual, and unavailable to many. Only 31 percent of the population was covered by health insurance in the 1930s. Agricultural and poor urban workers had no insurance. Consequently, Hungary was chronically far behind the West in terms of health status. After World War II, Hungary was occupied by the Soviet Union. The Communist party took power in 1948, and Hungary became a socialist state along Soviet lines, with a planned economy and centralized society, including the organization of health services and education, though these were never as centralized in Hungary as in other Soviet satellites.
After World War II, a new strategy was adopted to reconstruct and develop the health care infrastructure and to establish the socialist health services system. The major elements of the health policy included the right to free health services, universal accessibility to health services, equality of access to services for the entire population, entitlement to the highest level health care required by each