Saturday, September 19, 2020

Underfinancing of Health Care More than Pandemic Explains Super-High Mortality in Russia, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 18 – Since the start of this year, the Kremlin has sought to blame all the problems Russia is suffering from, including demographic ones, on the pandemic; but a new study argues that super-high mortality rates even this year have less to do with the coronavirus than with underfunding of the healthcare system, the result of Putin’s “optimization” program.

            Using Rosstat data, Guzel Ulumbekova and Arishti Ginoyan of the Higher School of Economics show that only 24 percent of the additional deaths in 2020 as compared to 2019 are directly or indirectly linked to the pandemic and suggest that many of those deaths could have been avoided if the healthcare system was in better shape (

            The Russian figure is especially striking in comparison with the explanation for additional mortality in the United States and the United Kingdom. There, 76 percent and 84 percent respectively of the additional deaths this year are directly related to the pandemic, the two Moscow scholars say.

            Overall mortality has risen in Russia this year from 12.4 cases per 1,000 population to 13.0, 15 percent higher than in the “new” countries of Europe and 30 percent higher than in “old Europe. As a result, life expectancy in Russia has fallen to 4.4 years lower than in the former group of countries and nine years lower than in the latter.

            Consequently, the low death rates from the coronavirus Moscow has taken so much pride in have the effect of highlighting the overall shortcomings of the Russian medical system and of the social system in which it is embedded. Russia spends just over half as much per capita as the “new” European countries do and only slightly more than a quarter of what “old” Europe does.


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