Moscow’s Spending Cuts Undermining Russians’ Health and Reducing Life Expectancy

Medical Symbol with Pole, Serpents, Wings, adapted from image at lanl.gov

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, October 21, 2015)

Guzel Ulumbekova, the head of the Russian Association of Professional Medical Societies, says that the health and life expectancy of Russians is directly related to the amount of government spending on health care and that as this amount is falling, their health is suffering and their life expectancies are falling.

Speaking to a conference yesterday on the state and prospects of Russian healthcare at the Committee of Civic Initiatives, Ulumbekova said that statistics prove that the widespread view that government spending and the health and wellbeing of the population have nothing to do with each other is wrong (polit.ru/article/2015/10/20/kgi_zdrav/).

She provided a graph which shows that up to the level of wealthy developed countries, “financing of health care exerts a direct influence on the general coefficient of mortality.” For Russia to achieve a life expectancy of 74 instead of the current 70, the government would have to increase spending on health 1.4 times and form five percent of GDP by 2020

Indeed, the medical specialist continued, “in order for the expected coefficient of mortality in Russia to remain at the level of 2013” when it was 71, “government expenditures” on health care would have to remain at the level of 2013″ – or 4.3 percent of GDP. In fact, however, Moscow has cut spending so that it will spend only 3.4 percent of GDP on health.

Ulumbekova reminded her audience that it is not the case that the population is not spending enough out of pocket for medical care. Today, Russians pay for approximately 36 percent of their health care costs directly, while in the new EU countries, that figure is only 26 percent.

But even when Russia spends more on healthcare, it often “spends it ineffectively,” she said, building para-natal centers rather than on facilities to cope with “one of the most important problems now – mortality among the working-age population which among men is at super high levels.”

With regard to the next two years, she said that she sees three possible scenarios: stabilization, development and crisis. Stabilization would require increasing government spending on health care to the level of 2013. Development would require even more. But what is on offer constitutes a crisis in which mortality will rise and life expectancy fall.

Article also appeared at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/10/moscows-spending-cuts-undermining.html