The use of medical care and out-of-pocket payments in Russia
Background: Despite the constitutional right of all Russian citizens to free medical care, out-of-pocket payment is a widespread phenomenon for all types of medical treatment. The aims of this paper are twofold: To present new evidence on the use of, and payment for, outpatient and inpatient treatment in Russia; and to compare the motivations behind both official and informal payments for outpatient services provided in public medical institutions. Methods: This study uses data from a quantitative household survey conducted in April 2014. The sample comprised 1602 individuals aged ⩾ 18 years, representing the entire adult population of the Russian Federation. We studied three types of medical care: inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment and medicines. Results: Our study found that 22.2% of patients pay for outpatient services, 37.5% pay for inpatient services and 91.5% pay for outpatient medicinal treatment. The informal payments are almost equally met in both outpatient (13.4%) and inpatient (12.2%) care; while the official payments are more common in inpatient care (25.2%), compared to outpatient care (8.8%). The main reasons for informal payment include: improvements in the quality of care and gratitude for medical staff. The official payments are more frequently motivated by an inability to receive a certain treatment free of charge. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that both official and informal payments for medical treatment are widespread in Russia: Informal payments are strongly preferred over official payments for outpatient care, while official payments dominate in inpatient care.