Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Putin’s Call for Russians to Pay for Health Care Will Increase Social Inequality and Worsen Public Health

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 17 – Vladimir Putin’s suggestion that Russians should pay for a portion of their health care not only violates the Russian Constitution which mandates government-financed care for all but will also increase social inequality and worsen public health, according to Russian experts. 

            It is not clear exactly what form such co-payments would be – his own press secretary says no program has yet been coordinated with the Presidential Administration – but the fact that the Kremlin made it just five months before the election and at a time when he is spending vast sums on the military and “mega” projects like bridges to Crimea and Sakhalin is striking.

            Putin’s words underscore his contempt for ordinary Russians and his willingness to see the health of many Russians deteriorate still further given that many can barely make ends meet at this time of economic crisis and will certainly be forced to choose between food and housing, on the one hand, and medicine, on the other.

            The Russian leader may believe that such proposals will largely avoid criticism because they reflect trends in other countries, including in the United States, where a much-less-hard-pressed government is still trying to shift medical cost burdens from the taxpayers as a whole to those who need treatment.

            But experts in Moscow are already criticizing the whole idea because of its economic and health consequences, and no one expects it to be implemented any time soon. Indeed, like an increasing number of Putin initiatives, it may never happen. However, it is an indication of what he thinks and of how hard pressed Russia’s budget is given the crisis and his military spending.

            For a selection of social and economic criticism that has surfaced so far, see vedomosti.ru/economics/articles/2017/10/17/738102-rashodi-na-zdorove. More is certain to appear in the coming days as Russians focus on this latest attack on their rights and as experts consider the impact more income inequality and ill health will have on population growth rates.

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