Russia introduces new healthcare rules for foreigners

Foreign residents in Russia mostly receive private healthcare services as it is, since they are not covered by compulsory health insurance. Source: Lori / Legion Media

Foreign residents in Russia mostly receive private healthcare services as it is, since they are not covered by compulsory health insurance. Source: Lori / Legion Media

Russia comes up with new healthcare regulations for foreigners. Emergency aid will remain free in life-threatening situations, but, otherwise, foreigners will have to cough up for healthcare services, say experts.

The Russian government has ratified new regulations governing medical treatment for foreigners. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed them into law this week, overriding the previous set of regulations dating back to 2005.

The main difference is that not only state-run or municipal medical facilities but also self-employed healthcare practitioners are now allowed to provide medical services to temporary and permanent foreign-residents in Russia. This essentially means private clinics, the first deputy chairperson of the Federation Council committee on social policy, Lyudmila Ponomareva, explained to RBTH.

In addition, foreign patients are now entitled to free healthcare, provided they are covered by compulsory health insurance.

According to Ponomareva, this also stems from the recent amendments – this time, to migration laws on employment of highly skilled migrants. Subject to the relevant foreign-worker quotas, Russian companies can invite and legally employ highly skilled specialists and pay the necessary contributions to the Compulsory Health Insurance Fund, which means that such foreigners can actually use their health insurance.

Just as before, first-aid for foreigners will be free. Furthermore, emergency treatment for life-threatening, sudden, and acute conditions or acute exacerbations of chronic diseases will also be free for foreigners at hospitals and clinics.

Otherwise, foreigners will have to pay for examination procedures and treatment, with the actual cost determined by specific agreements for paid healthcare services or voluntary health insurance contracts.

For routine health checks, foreigners will be required to either produce a documented guarantee of the obligation to pay for healthcare services provided, or they will be required to make an upfront payment. The 2005 rules stipulated that the two requirements be met simultaneously. Clinics providing the services are required to issue an invoice within 10 days of the treatment.

If any of the patient’s prior medical records, lab results, or medical images are available, they need to be delivered to the attending doctor (this used to be almost an obligation for foreigners).

According to the head of the State Duma healthcare committee, Sergei Kalashnikov, the decree hardly changes the status of foreigners in Russia, in terms of healthcare.

Foreign residents in Russia mostly receive private healthcare services as it is, since they are not covered by compulsory health insurance. “Which is the right thing,” said Kalashnikov. “They are not making any contributions to the funds, so why should we be paying for them.”

The Duma deputy also pointed out that Russians were actually in the same situation elsewhere in the world: they need to buy insurance policies entitling them to healthcare services. Importantly, chronic diseases are not covered by such insurance, and Russia has a reciprocal condition for foreigners as well.

Kalashnikov also reiterated that emergency aid remained free – something poorer foreign residents tend to make use of. For example, pregnant women in search of better quality health services come to Russia from less developed countries to have their children.

Alexander Saversky, president of the Patient Defense League (a national non-governmental organization) confirmed that almost the only way for a foreigner to receive medical treatment in Russia is to pay for it.

“I doubt that many foreigners will send requests to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to find out whether any agreement exists between Russia and their native countries on medical treatment. If you make no such request, then you should pay for healthcare,” said Saversky.

Meanwhile, Ponomareva pinpointed a different problem: The overwhelming majority of foreigners who are entitled to travel to Russia visa-free lack voluntary health insurance contracts. While it is theoretically possible to legally bind them to buy voluntary health insurance policies, in practice it would be impossible to check if they have any with a visa-free regime in place.

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