Likbez: Medical Insurance in Russia

At the moment, there are two primary types of medical insurance available in Russia -- the compulsory insurance known as OMC, which is provided by the state, and privately purchased medical insurance, or DMC. Although basic care under OMC is provided free to Russians, many vital drugs and procedures are not included in this compulsory plan. Additionally, OMC only applies to treatment at a particular hospital, determined by one's place of residence. Should a Russian covered only the OMC become ill while traveling, even within Russia, he or she would have to pay in full for medical services, except in emergency cases that require calling an ambulance.

Private medical insurance offered by various insurance companies is not yet widely held by individuals and is mostly purchased by big companies to insure their staff. These programs cover medical care in a large number of cities and include both inpatient and outpatient treatments, doctor's fees, diagnostics, drugs, casts or other dressings, and transportation by ambulance, among other costs.

All insurance companies, whether private or state-owned, sell policies to individuals, including foreigners. The American Medical Center in Moscow, for instance, accepts insurance from the Russian company Ingosstrakh, as well as policies from international medical insurers.

The price of the policies available in Russia can vary from 10,000 to 45,000 rubles per year, depending on the number of the medical establishments and services included in the plan. In case of a sudden illness or an accident, an insured client must call his company's service center, where an operator can advise him on the medical services he needs. But even private insurance comes with a long list of exceptions. No medical insurance policy available for sale in Russia will cover treatment for pre-existing conditions or terminal illness.

As a result, most people prefer to use their free OMC policies for basic services and in a time of real necessity seek a doctor with whom they can have a personal contract or agreement, preferring to pay this doctor directly in order to be sure they receive the proper care.

Some countries have reciprocal health care agreements with Russia. For example, British nationals do not need health insurance in Russia, as their domestic health insurance is valid in Russia as well. It is advisable, however, for foreign nationals traveling or residing in Russia to purchase private insurance that would cover treatment here.