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Public health insurance program begins

By Keti Arjevanidze
Friday, March 1
The new public health insurance program of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Affairs of Georgia went into effect yesterday. Minister Davit Sergeenko met with representatives from medical clinics to introduce the details of the state-funded insurance program.

The Healthcare Minister said insured people will be provided with free house visits from doctors and emergency medical services up to 15,000 lari in value per year.

The Minister thinks that the number of citizens visiting medical clinics will increase now that public health insurance is available. Sergeenko thinks the Ministry has enough financial resources to guarantee medical coverage for all. According to the Minister, the general healthcare insurance program will be funded from the healthcare budget, which is 635 million lari for 2013.

Sergeenko explained that recipients of public healthcare will be registered on an electronic database beforehand. From February 28th any Georgian citizen between the ages of 6-60 not already registered for insurance is eligible for public health insurance. More than 2 million citizens qualify under this category.

Sergeenko also announced that in case a patient needs emergency services he/she will be guaranteed medical services without any registration.

Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) member Magda Anikashvili, who was previously on the Parliamentary Healthcare Committee, welcomed the creation of a public health insurance program but criticized it as well. She said there is low public awareness over the issue thus special ads should be created for better informing the public as to what is offered by the new program.

Anikashvili also said that “fair insurance contradicts the principles of justice.” She explained that up until now, people have received insurance through their employer, and must pay for it. According to Anikashvili it would be better if the government offered reduced health insurance to those already paying for it through private providers.

Former Minister of Health and United National Movement (UNM) member Zurab Tchiaberashvili also spoke about the general insurance program, as the issue was among the important issues during the UNM's period of governance. Tchiaberashvili found the new program vague and spoke about possible risks. According to Tchiaberashvili this insurance programme will not give citizens free medical care: “They will have to pay money out of pocket anyway.”