The Ministry of Health announced in January that it has drafted relevant legislation and submitted it to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s cabinet for approval. Ministry officials indicated that it can be put into practice already next year.
Under the proposed bill, free healthcare would be financed by a 6 percent personal income tax. Public and private employers would pay half of the new tax to be levied from their workers.
Finance Minister Tigran Khachatrian said the insurance plan would still require the government to more than double in 2023 public spending on healthcare projected at up to 140 billion drams ($310). The government cannot ensure such a drastic increase, he said, adding that the new system should be introduced gradually and slowly.
“We have asked our colleagues [from the Ministry of Health] to present an action plan on how they can follow that reform path by steadily and consistently increasing funding volumes in the coming years,” Khachatrian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Deputy Health Minister Lena Nanushian acknowledged that the government could delay the new system or opt for its phased introduction. She also did not rule out other changes in the proposed plan.
Armenia’s former governments too promised to put in place mandatory health insurance for all citizens. But they eventually backed away in the face of financial difficulties.
Public access to healthcare in the country declined following the collapse of the Soviet Union as cash-strapped Armenian hospitals were allowed to charge their patients. Most of those hospitals were privatized in the 1990s.
Only state-run policlinics are now required to provide medical services to the population free of charge. Healthcare, including surgeries, is also supposedly free for children aged 7 and younger. Also, over the past decade the state has partly covered healthcare expenses of civil servants, schoolteachers and other public sector employees.