Azerbaijan Medical Insurance
Azerbaijan, or officially known as the Republic of Azerbaijan, is a South Eastern European country, located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe. It shares its borders with Iran to the south, Armenia to the West, Georgia to the northwest, Russia to the north and is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east. Azerbaijan is roughly 86,600 km² in size with a population of 8,303,512 in July 2010, making it the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. With the rich oil fields within Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku, the city was able to transform into a highly modernized city, but has left a large portion of the surrounding rural areas and villages untouched. The capital of Baku is also a multilingual place, offering a variety of accessible cultural experiences for expatriates. Although, outside of the capital, use of English is limited.
Azerbaijan has been a war torn country for a large part of the 20th century, only regaining its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. Within the early years, Azerbaijan’s independence celebration was cut short by the Nagorno-Karabakh War that broke out in the end of 1991 with its neighbor to the west, Armenia. The war broke out over disputed of ownership of the Nagorno-Karabakh area, located in southwestern Azerbaijan. By the end of 1994 Azerbaijan lost more than 16% of its land, which included Nagorno-Karabakh, and an estimated 30,000 people were killed and close to a million were displaced. This encouraged both countries to agree upon an unofficial cease-fire in May of 1994. In 2007 the Azeri Government stated that the long-standing dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the occupied territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is almost certain to spark a new war if it remains unresolved. By November 2010 the area was still under Armenian military occupation, despite international pressure on Armenia from the EU to clear occupied Azerbaijani regions as soon as possible.
The Azerbaijan government uses the Soviet Semashko system as the model for their own health care system. The Semashko system was organized around the guiding principle that the people should have universal access to health care that is free at the point of use. The Azerbaijan health care system has highly centralized planning of resources and personnel. This is based on a hierarchy of facilities, meaning that funding is allocated to large hospitals with a high population. This has caused problems in rural areas where the population is decentralized. This structure means that these areas don’t receive sufficient funding to improve or create health facilities, meaning some Azeri people must travel great distances when in need of basic health care.
While the majority of medical care services are still provided by state run facilities, there is an expanding private sector within Azerbaijan. The Ministry of Health runs the health system. One of the main problems preventing proper development of the health facilities in the country is that the government still, as of 2008, only spends approximately 3% of its GDP on health care. The WHO reported that in 2007 public health care expenditure accounted for only 29.3% of the total health expenses, which was an increase in comparison to 17.1% in 2002. Out-of-Pocket payments and charges through private sector care plans account for the majority of capital in the medical system. For expatriates looking for medical care, cash payment is the norm.
The medical care facilities located throughout Azerbaijan often fall short compared to those seen in more developed countries. The facilities located in rural areas outside of Baku are extremely limited by the lack of doctors, proper facilities and issues in supplying sufficient electricity. Rural facilities should be trusted for only basic checkups and shouldn’t be used for any intrusive exams or medical procedures. In the city of Baku, medical facilities offer a wide variety of services, but it is advised to only use them for basic health care needs. In the case of serious medical emergency, the nearest healthcare facility capable of providing sufficient treatment might not be within Azerbaijan, so a traveler or expatriate will need to consider medical transportation and an international health insurance plan that incorporates medical evacuation in its coverage. To get more information on medical care centers in rural and remote areas contact your embassy prior to your visit.
Even though close to 98 percent of the population in Azerbaijan is Muslim, Azerbaijan is mainly a secular society and religion is considered a private matter. Even so, expatriates and visitors to the county should respect local customs, laws and religions to ensure your actions do not offend the people of Azerbaijan, especially in religious areas or during the holy month of Ramadan. Other behaviors, such as homosexual, lesbian and transgender actions are legal in Azerbaijan, and it is recommended for expatriates within the country not to show public displays of affection.
When traveling throughout Azerbaijan there are some areas that an expatriate should avoid or take measures to ensure their safety while visiting. In the southwestern regions of Nagorno-Karabakh, extreme caution should be taken when near any of the disputed border areas. These areas are occupied by Azerbaijani and Armenian military forces and although there has been a ceasefire in place since 1994, there are still regular exchanges of gunfire across the Line of Contact. In addition some of these disputed areas are heavily land mined. It is strongly suggested to not travel to any of these occupied areas near Nagorno-Karabakh. To the north of Azerbaijan the border with Russia should not be used to enter or leave the country, because it is closed to foreign nationals.
When using the Baku Metro, or other forms of public transport, travelers are recommended to exercise caution with personal safety and belongings. Travel by roads should be done with care, as many roads are in poor condition. Most roads are badly lit and road quality generally becomes worse in rural areas. If hurt or injured in any way in such remote rural areas travel to the nearest medical facility may take some time. With such injuries, immediate care might be required and an international medical insurance policy with evacuation coverage will help you evacuate the area quickly to the nearest centre of medical excellence.
If you would like more information about traveling to Azerbaijan with a medical insurance policy, or to receive a free International Health Insurance Quote, feel free to contact one of our dedicated advisers today.