Uzbekistan Medical Insurance
The Republic of Uzbekistan is a landlocked country located in Central Asia that was a part of the former Soviet Union until December 1991. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north and west, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south, and Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east. Its 447,400 sq. km., are chiefly made up of deserts and mountains. Less than 10 percent of its land is arable; thus, forcing Uzbekistan’s economy to rely primarily on commodity production. Uzbekistan is known for its rich resources of gold, uranium, potassium, and natural gas. Uzbekistan is currently suffering from many problems; one of the largest being the environmental catastrophe caused by the agricultural industry. As mentioned, Uzbekistan’s geographic location makes the country an unsuitable location for growing crops. However, during the former Soviet Union’s attempt to increase its cotton production, the Aral Sea’s water was rerouted in order to water cotton crops in what is now Uzbekistan’s territory. This has caused the Aral Sea to shrink to less than 50 percent of its former size, which has led to untold damage to the local ecosystem, and the loss of human and animal lives.
Like many of the former Soviet Union countries, Uzbekistan’s economy, political structure, and social sector is still in a transitional period. Uzbekistan has declared that it intends to transition to a market economy. However, the government’s economic policies and regulations have remained very strict; thus, deterring foreign investments and the growth of the economy. Similar to many other former Soviet Union countries, Uzbekistan’s health sector has suffered since the loss of the former Soviet Union government’s subsidies and support. This is evident in the ratio of hospital beds to population, which has decreased by 50 percent from 1992 to 2003. In addition, the emigration of skilled professionals, including physicians and nurses, has left the country with a critical shortage of medical personnel.
Another major problem is the overall lack of vaccines, medicines, and supplies. In a 1995 study, public hospitals only had 20 percent of the medicine needed to adequately treat the population. In 1993, only 40 percent of children were vaccinated for diphtheria, pertussis, measles, and polio. This is a drastic drop form 1990 where 80 to 90 percent of children were vaccinated against these diseases. While vaccination rates have seen a slight decline in many western nations, this is more to do with a perceived negative social impact of vaccines; however, in the case of Uzbekistan, these lowered rates are more indicative of serious shortfalls within the country’s healthcare system rather than a misguided social challenge on the efficacy of the practice.
The Uzbek constitution guarantees citizens the right to access free health care. Since its independence, the Uzbek government has been trying to reform and improve its healthcare system. In 2006, the government allocated 11.1 percent of the state budget to the healthcare sector; there has been a gradual increase in Uzbek healthcare spending since the early 2000s. This funding is distributed to the Ministry of Public Health, regional governments, and specialized facilities. Despite this increased healthcare spending, service is still slow and limited, which has led to a surge in corruption and bribery as a method of circumventing the state system. Current practices of corruption and inefficient management are now extremely similar to those in place during the Soviet Union era. Although all hospitals are meant to be free of charge and available to all citizens, there remain a select few that cater to the elite members of Uzbekistan’s society.
Uzbekistan’s public healthcare system is administered centrally. The president and cabinet of ministers together develop the nation’s health policies, regulations, laws, and budget. The Supreme Assembly then reviews, approves, and executes these orders. The responsibilities are then passed on to the governors of the 12 oblasts (region) and the capital city Tashkent. Funds are then further distributed to districts and sub-districts in each region. The current focus of the government is to improve women and children’s health, protect the environment, and to further develop primary medical services in a bid to improve the overall health of the population.
The private health sector in Uzbekistan is small, but does exist. Since the early 1990s, the private health sector has been steadily growing. The government has also implemented a program that involved the introduction of Uzbekistan health insurance and encouraged the further privatization of health services. The Uzbekistan government works with the private sector to ensure that the quality of care meets state standards, and that free health care is provided for those who cannot afford to pay. So far, privatization has only involved small clinics and pharmacies. The government is slowly expanding privatization to small dental and prenatal clinics. Private health facilities are markedly more expensive than public health centers, which is another factor that exacerbates the quality of care available to the general public. Medical personnel tend to favor private patients over public patients, leaving the public sector with an overall lower quality of care and quantity of practitioners than the private sector.
Common diseases and healthcare issues that afflict the Uzbekistan populace include pollution, cancer, hepatitis, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, dysentery, cholera, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and drug abuse. Many of these problems are associated with prolonged exposure to pollutants, such as the toxic dust that blows from the dried-up areas of the Aral Sea. Although the number of doctors, hospitals, and clinics did increase dramatically while under Soviet rule, the doctors and other medical staff are not trained to handle these modern problems. This has further brought into question the effectiveness and quality of care provided by Uzbekistan’s health practitioners. The Uzbek government has responded to this issue by beginning a program where it sends the country’s medical students to schools in Russia, Germany, Great Britain, Turkey, India, and Egypt. It is also trying to attract greater foreign donations and investments in its healthcare industry.
Travelers and expatriates visiting Uzbekistan are advised to purchase an international health insurance policy before arriving in the country. Expatriates and visitors are able to use all health facilities in Uzbekistan. However, the prices will be higher than it is for locals. Private hospitals and clinics can be quite expensive. In addition, even the country’s best private health centers may not meet the standards of Western Europe and North America. As mentioned before, the Uzbekistan health industry suffers from a general lack of medicine, staff, vaccinations, and supplies. The disparity of the accessibility and quality of healthcare is even greater between rural and urban areas. If you are seriously ill or injured in a rural area or if the treatment or medication you require is not available in the country, evacuation may be required. These expenses are known to be as high as $100,000 USD, so it is imperative that the health insurance policy that you have will cover emergency evacuation transportation costs.
Recommended vaccinations include tetanus-diphtheria, mumps, measles, rubella, hepatitis A hepatitis B, rabies, polio, and typhoid. Although these are not required to enter the country, Uzbekistan’s supply of vaccines is critically low, so they may be difficult or very expensive to obtain once in the country. Visitors should also bring adequate supplies of their own prescription medicines. Diarrhea medicine is recommended because the number one ailment for most travelers is diarrhea. Most cases tend to be mild and can be treated with rest and sufficient fluids. Malaria is rare, but has been reported in the country. Anti-malarial pills are not likely to be necessary. However, travelers should use insect-repellant and be aware of where they sleep, especially around stagnant bodies of water.
Pacific Prime offers professional advice at no cost to you. No matter what your budget is or what your requirements are, our professional consultants can help find a policy that fits you or your group. Our policies can cover a wide range of services including dental, maternity, specialist consultation, transportation, inpatient services, and many more. Please contact us today for a free consultation.