Short information on Polish reforms of social security system and health care started in 1999.

Introduction to Polish reforms of 1999.

Let us start up with vocabulary:

In fact everybody has accepted the fact, that the old system was bancrupt, and new one had to be created.

01.01.1999 Polish government started serious reforms with great noise and, as it has turned out, no idea how to do it.

There were some information coming about the reform: about its bright future and about Polish joint stock company Prokom Software SA, who would build advanced computer system for it. There was about 250 thousand USDollars disposed for this task by state for the computer system only, without hardware. Contract is secret. Why?

Government loudly declared, that it would be the greatest reform in new Polish history and, that it has been almost never done so big reform in the world before, except some Chilean experience.

The main idea of health care system reform, was to take financing of state organized health care out from the state budget and finance it from system of premiums collected via social security system and distributed by managing institutions.

At the same time social security system got revolutionary changes, with main idea of creation individual accounts for every person and to collect premiums paid through his/her earning salary time. The collected money should be basement for future retirement pension.
There were plans to divide social insurance premium rates into 3 parts: part obligatory to state, another obligatory part possible to choose between state and commercial (independent) funds and the last part for pure commercial, not obligatory insurance. Then there were separate premiums for health insurance and labour fund (in fact kind of insurance in case employer's bancrupcy).

And now about reality.

The main statute of reform was accepted by Polish parliament (Sejm) on 13.10.1998, came into force in November 1998, while detailed suplementary regulations were produced by government in December 1998, and really published in January 1999, with validity starting from 01.01.1999. There were for example regulations signed on 30.12.1998, "published" on 31.12.1998, valid from 01.01.1999.
Polish government excused themselves by telling something about earlier publication of draft projects in newspapers and internet. But real, official and valid publication should be in Journal of Law, which is usually printed within 10-15 days from delivery of new regulations texts. Then the newly printed journal should be distributed. In fact I could see them around half of January 1999.

Why I am writing about this system so in details?
Just to explain the background of situation in Polish enterprises: big and small, even half-self employed single person.

New regulations added a lot of new extremely bureaucratical procedures for every employer or single entrepreneur. It also referred to people, who were employed but also running additionally any small, usually self-employing company.

Regulations were impossible to understand, but not fulfilling completely new obligations was under danger of punishment approx. 1200 USDollars (5000 zloty) per - nobody knows: whole company or single paper.

New forms were printed in too small amount and instructions were written by people, who were never forced to use them, so were impossible to understand for normal people. Accountancies in all Polish enterprises were shocked and nocked down.

Polish governmental official, Vice Minister of Health commented:
"it is only problem of mental adaptation".
In fact it was true.
If the government is not satisfied with own society, shouldn't it elect a new one? (B. Brecht)

All these complicated procedures should feed an extremely advanced computer system designed by one company: Prokom Software SA, who has won one company contest organized by Polish government. This company has strategic alliance with the Microsoft Corporation from USA.

To "help" employers or single entrepreneurs in filling great amount of new and difficult to obtain forms there was designed computer program by the Prokom Software. The program is designed only for MS Windows 9x/NT, and no version for another platforms is prepared. It was argued, that Windows 9x/NT is the most popular computer system in companies and it gives prospects of future development.
More information will follow in the next chapter of this text

Why such big computer companies, as IBM or Sun did not protest because of so obvious false advertisement? Because they have taken money for systems for the headquarter of Polish state Social Insurance Service (ZUS - Zaklad Ubezpieczen Spolecznych).

Standard Polish government propaganda is, that just this reform has not met big resistance.

By the way, could anybody imagine managers blocking roads?
Accountancy workers burning old tyres in front of Ministry of Labour?
Computer specialists on hunger strike?
However, only such protests could be recognized by Polish government.

Probably first official political demonstration against just this reform was as late as 15.02.2000, after it has been sure for long time, that the reform is a catastrophe.

What effects of the reform we could observe now - in fourteenth month of the experiment?

So, if system of collecting money does not work correctly up to now (29.02.2000), it means system of financing of health care does not work as well.

Then, one of main horrors of health care reforms was to make restriction to access of people to specialist doctors - everybody had to pass useless bureaucratic procedures in even the most obvious cases. Typical procedure is, if you have broken leg, you have to go first to family doctor to get recommand to go to another one able to solve such problem. If you go directly in so obvious case, you have to pay. Later, to get permission to stay at home, to get welfare, it is necesssary to know a lot about statistic codes and numbers for your employer and yourself. But - as it is still unknown, who has paid or not, so it would be funny, if not the fact, that it is not film in cinema.

Then, due to extremely fast introducing of new system, almost everyday we could hear, that there are many institutions lost out of the system, it means forgotten by officials, it means not listed as should be financed.

Then, treatment of some serious illnesses were not listed among refunded by state system, among them sclerosis multiplex, leukemia, etc. It means, that only extremely rich people can afford to be sick.

Because of not clear division between area, money and responsibility, there were people, who died, because medical help was refused. Official registers say, that 17000 people more died in 1999 compared to 1998. Is it statistical variatiion, or is it result of the reform?

People are shocked by new fortunes obtained by management of money distribution institutions in state health care system. Their monthly salary is contracted at approx. 4000 USDollars and with great compensations in case of any change.
People are shocked, that at the same time typical nurse salary is 150 USDollars.

At the moment I am healthy, but everyday it is possible to hear or read about new horrors made by our government reforms of health care system.

Our prime minister Jerzy Buzek 16.02.1999 told in radio: "it is true, we are not self-critical". Few minutes later he corrected his opinion in this matter...

Why I am writing about it?

To open your eyes, let you not to trust Polish government propaganda.
Not everything has to be so painful, because of 50 years of communism.
They have even paid for advertisements of reforms in TV and great billboards.

And if somebody is still not satisfied? Government spokesman commented: "such people in reality are afraid of decommunisation".

Only one thing is sure: Polish state is bancrupt, has no money and government has no idea, what to do.

Companies in Poland are sold to Microsoft by Polish government.
That is known.
The question is only in the price. That is unknown.

We knew, that new rules are coming with new forms, new instructions and punishment about 1200 USDollars, if something wrong. In such situation Prokom Software SA produced computer program named "Program Platnika" (Program of Payer), which was advertised by government as user friendly aid in dealing with new rules and new forms.

The program was INTENDED to work only in Windows 9x or Windows NT. There were no version even for neither DOS, nor Win3.x, which are are stable and could be later also used your platforms.

The program has turned out to be full of bugs, moreover, first versions did not work at all.
There were accidents, that after system crash caused by the program, only professionals could recover lost data due to damaged server hard disk boot sectors.
In addition it was making wrong calculations and had extremely big hardware requirements.
Game with exchanging of one buggy version into another one lasted for whole January and begin of February 1999. In fact it lasts up to now.

People started calling it "Pogrom Platnika" (Pogrom of Payer).

Government official (President of ZUS) had ready made answer: it works badly in pirated copies of Windows and and everybody has right to fill new papers with own pen.

After complains, that accountancy in enterprises usually do not use Windows 9x because of problems with stability, the same official said: "Now everybody would buy new, LEGAL system".

Protests, that we do not want to pay tax to Microsoft were simply crushed. Protesting people were accused to use museum systems (even if it was the newest SCO UNIX or Power Mac).

In Polish companies accountancy departments, the most popular is MS-DOS platform, then UNIXes, then Windows NT. Windows 9x is usually not used due to bad stability and unacceptable effects of system crashes. It is popular, of course, but in marketing, secretaries, etc, where stability is not so extremely important, comparing to better graphic effects of work. And at homes for children games.

Because of urging deadlines and 5000 zl punishments, many companies have been forced to buy new computer with new system and test the new program, which was said by government as "user friendly" and usable.

The program is distributed as "freeware" covered by copyrights law and source code was not published. It was explained, that print-outs have to be precise, but demands for print-outs were also not published, so there has been made any independent program. It is extremely curious, because it was made at public money and creators react to users requests for modified versions at all. No hope for another platforms, no hope for network version, no hope for simplified versions for small companies.

Why the program is so important?

Forms are intended for computer recognition in scanners, therefore printout layout accuracy is important. There would be no problem if they were published, let us say 3 months before. In such case every accountancy system would be adapted on time. But, because forms were published in illegally fast way and printed in not sufficient amount, therefore the program from governmental sources was so important.

Scanners turned out to be not enough accurate and returning forms due to bad type of paper was as often as idiotic, so after some angry comments ZUS had to stop this sport.

Next problem is question, if just sending files directly from computers would be possible, via internet for example?

Yes, after permission, registration and encrypting files for sending.

At first, there were no computers in headquarter at the beginning of 1999, then it was not decided to the end, if to use diskettes (finally accepted as allowed), CD-s, internet (no receiving computers) or any extranet (not finished yet). Then, it was decided, that encrypting and electronic signature technology should be used in delivering files.

Creators of the computer system made this procedure as difficult and impossible to understand as was only possible. Additionally, update of program made loss of already existing encrypting key, if correct backup was not made before..

Here is next hint: it is possible to imagine, that independent programs for printing forms would come earlier or later. However, it is enough to change forms layout from time to time to prevent it to big extend. But, encrypted files for sending to state system would be accepted only from the governmental program with obligation for Microsoft.

Then, the program's encrypting library it is freeware SSLeay libeay32.dll
It has turned out, that it is pirated freeware.
The SSLeay authors asked inside licence for users to mention their names CLEARLY inside program and in all advertising materials as contribution for free use in private and commercial applications.
I could see, that Prokom Software did it only in one version of manual written as MSWord97 .doc file, distributed on CDs.
For example no advertising material printed in Polish edition of the Computerworld magazine contained this information.
(I have hot seen any another advertisement of the program.)

What more to say? Prokom Software SA has strategic alliance with Microsoft Corporation, and it is hard to believe, that governmental officials work for Microsoft marketing for free. There is no quarrels between government and Prokom, that up to now (29.02.2000) system does not work, because contract is secret and not actual. Results of control of the contract by Supreme Control Chamber (Najwyzsza Izba Kontroli) are also secret - such information has reached media on 28.02.2000.

In fact, we have to pay tax for Microsoft, only because we are obliged to pay insurance premiums. Governmental enforcing of Microsoft Corporation power is extremely dangerous for economical freedom in Poland.

Do I suggest corruption? Yes. Specially, after one official informed, that there would be NO PERMISSION to prepare the program for another systems.
Otherwise it would mean, that we have dangerous idiots inside government and in fact it is the same wrong.

Why the catastrophe of reforms was so severe

In my opinion our rulers considered every comment, request, question, etc. as direct attack against their ideas. Instead of finding solutions acceptable by everybody, they wanted to prove, that they were always right. Because real arguments were lacking, our rulers decided to insult people ("it is only problem of mental adaptation") and threaten them by financial punishments.

In another way: there were no cooperation between reformers (rulers) and users of the system (people).
No reasonably managed company in the world would dare to introduce new computer system, starting from insulting its users. Is there any difference between company and state? State can not be bancrupt...

OK... stories are long and for non-Polish resident reader are not so interesting. To see more - in Polish, please visit:

Please, let me have your comments.
Barbara Glowacka jastra@

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