Writing for Slon.ru, Russian economist Vladislav Inozemtsev lists some of the differences between the approach to healthcare in Russia and the West. Starting with the obvious, he writes that developed countries like the United States, Japan, Germany, Israel and Great Britain, as the biggest spenders, set the prices for drugs and medical equipment. While the United States spent over USD 1 trillion on healthcare on the federal level in 2015, Russia allocated only USD 33 billion for the same purpose in its Federal Compulsory Medical Insurance fund. Therefore, it is impossible for Russia to provide a decent healthcare at a low cost, which makes the archaic approach to setting prices of respective services through decrees and standards pointless and harmful.
Inozemtsev claims that federal governments need to spend at least USD 1,500 per capita on healthcare annually if they want to provide a decent level of service. Current federal expenditure on healthcare in Russia amounts to approximately USD 250 per capita.
Since healthcare in Russia still represents a giant bureaucratic structure with few, if any, market mechanisms, it retains ineffective practices and personnel. Errors remain largely without consequences, since malpractice lawsuits in Russia are virtually nonexistent.
Another adverse peculiarity of the Russian healthcare system are the patients themselves. According to Inozemtsev, their attitude towards their health leaves a lot to be desired, which is reflected even in the etymology of Russian words for healthcare and health insurance: the literal translation of the Russian term for healthcare back to English is health preservation, while the Russian term for health insurance is a derivation of the word designating fear. Quite dissimilar to their western peers, Russian patients don’t see their doctors to treat a sports injury and return to a basketball court, but out of fear from serious illness or death. However, often times even that doesn’t provide sufficient motivation. For example, only 7% of breast cancer is diagnosed in the final stage, while the respective figure in Russia is 40% – Russian healthcare system is not great when it comes to prevention.
Inozemtsev ends with a gloomy forecast, primarily because the federal government doesn’t treat healthcare as a priority. If the ruble continues to devalue, the prices of drugs and medical equipment will inevitably rise, and the medical experts will continue to emigrate to the West.