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Cash-Strapped Government Limits Free Healthcare In Armenia


Armenia - A newly built hospital in Vanadzor, November 10, 2018.

Citing a lack of public funds, the Armenian government has largely stopped paying for major medical services provided by hospitals to a large part of the country’s population.

Armenia does not have a national system of health insurance and its citizens have to pay for surgeries and other treatment at not only private but also state-run hospitals.

The current and previous governments have paid medical bills of various categories of the population, notably young children and socially vulnerable patients, through funds allocated to the hospitals. Some 1.3 million Armenians are eligible for such assistance.

Armenian media outlets have reported in recent weeks, that they are now increasingly denied free treatment on the grounds that hospitals have already run out of government money allocated for this year. The Ministry of Health has effectively confirmed that, citing a major increase in the number of people seeking free surgeries and other essential treatment.

Health Minister Anahit Avanesian said on Wednesday that the hospitals must now draw up waiting lists of patients that need to be operated on or undergo expensive medical examinations.

One woman, who did not want to be identified, claimed to have been told by a hospital that it can no longer treat her underage child suffering from a serious chronic disease for free until December 2022.

“What if my child’s health condition deteriorates during that time?” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. She said she cannot afford to pay around 100,000 drams ($200) for every visit to hospital doctors.

An opposition lawmaker, Aregnaz Manukian, said she has received similar complaints from many other citizens. She raised the matter with Avanesian during the government’s question-and-answer in the parliament on Wednesday.

“You must find budgetary funds to fully solve the problem,” Manukian told the health minister before asking: “Is the government taking steps to rectify this disgraceful situation?”

Avanesian replied that people in need of urgent medical aid will continue to enjoy free healthcare. She said the government is also continuing to cover the cost of cancer surgeries and other procedures and has allocated 550 million drams ($1.1 million) for that purpose.

“Also, an additional 2 billion drams has been allocated for medical aid provided to military personnel and members of their families,” added the minister.

One woman suffering from cancer said, however, that a Yerevan hospital has told her that she will have to pay for her next course of chemotherapy.

“That should be followed by surgery, but I don’t know whether or not it will be free,” said the woman, who also spoke with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on the condition of anonymity for fear of upsetting the hospital management.

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