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Regular version of the site

Article

Reforming voluntary drug insurance in Russian healthcare: does social solidarity matter?

Health Policy. 2017. Vol. 121. No. 11. P. 1177-1185.
With low take-up of both private health insurance and the existing public drug reimbursement scheme, it is thought that less than 5% of the Russian population have access to free outpatient drug treatment. This represents a major policy challenge for a country grappling with reforms of its healthcare system and experiencing low or no economic growth and significant associated reductions in spending on social services. In this paper, we draw on data from a recent Levada-Center survey to examine the attitudes and social solidarity of the Russian population towards drug policies in general and towards the introduction of a proposed voluntary drug insurance system in particular. In addition to being among the first to explore these important questions in the post-Communist setting, we make three important contributions to the emerging policy debates. First, we find that, if introduced immediately and without careful planning and preparation, Russia’s voluntary drug insurance scheme is likely to collapse financially due to the over-representation of high-risk unhealthy individuals opting in to the scheme. Second, the negative attitude of higher income groups towards the redistribution of wealth to the poor may further impede government efforts to introduce voluntary drug insurance. Finally, we argue that Russia currently lacks the breadth and depth of social solidarity necessary for implementing this form of health financing.