YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The government plans to put in place a nationwide system of mandatory medical insurance that should make healthcare far more accessible to Armenians, a senior official in Yerevan announced on Monday.
Saro Tsaturian, head of the State Healthcare Agency, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the government has assigned the agency to develop a “concept” for the reform in the next few months. He said the new system could come into force as early as in January 2015.
Ever since the Soviet break-up Armenians have had to pay for most of the services provided by various medical institutions. Many people in the country have been unable to afford the relatively high cost of medical treatment. Widespread corruption in the healthcare sector only aggravates the problem.
Only public sector employees as well as a small minority of people working for private firms currently have health insurance.
According to Tsaturian, whose agency is subordinate to the Ministry of Health, the government now wants to extend insurance coverage to Armenia’s entire population. “At the heart of medical insurance is the principle of social solidarity,” he said. “That is why it has to be mandatory.”
“Medical insurance is basically about young people subsidizing older ones and rich people subsidizing poorer ones because the former pay more for health insurance than the latter,” added the official.
Tsaturian confirmed that this means more sums will be deducted from workers’ wages. He suggested that the average monthly payment for a “package of basic hospital services” could vary from 2,000 to 3,000 drams ($5-$7.5).
Tsaturian could not say whether the planned insurance system will cover expensive and complicated surgeries that are not necessarily performed in Armenia. “This question requires calculations,” he said.