Georgia is located between Europe and Asia, East of the Black Sea. Georgia borders Turkey and Armenia to the South and Azerbaijan to the East. The country has a land area of 69,700 square kilometers. Georgia declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The country contains three independent republics namely Abkhazia, Adjara, and South Ossetia. Mountainous South Ossetia is officially part of Georgia. In 2008, Russia and Georgia went to war over South Ossetia, it declared independence from Georgia and was recognised by Russia, although only a few other countries followed suit. The region of South Ossetia lies in the North central part of Georgia.
Georgia's climate along the Black Sea coastal region is Mediterranean. The climate is continental as it goes farther inland, with warm summers and cold winters. Mean temperature in July is around 23°C while the mean temperature in January is -3° C. The attractions for travellers in Georgia include the beautiful coastal regions along the Black Sea. Georgia also has large mountain ranges, making it ideal for skiing. The country has historic cities, a spectacular countryside, and a fascinating culture that combines aspects of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Moreover, the people of Georgia are renowned for their hospitality. South Ossetia has stunning scenery, a balmy climate and with the variety of flora and fauna. It has health spas in the middle of the mountains, and with the famous mineral water, caves and waterfalls, a place where you can feel relaxed.
Georgia is one of the poorest countries of the former Soviet Union. According to official statistics, about 31% of the population lives below the poverty line. People who live in rural areas, where unemployment is high, are much more likely to be poor and have little or no access to basic healthcare services. In theory, healthcare in Georgia is free for those people living below the poverty line, but in reality, patients often have to pay for the medical services, especially for medicines. One of the reasons for this is that the salaries of medical staff in the country are often low and they depend on out-of-pocket payments to increase their income. The salaries of medical personnel are negotiated on an individual basis between the healthcare personnel and the medical facility managers. Their salaries can be based on workload or an agreed salary, or a combination of both.
Since gaining independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia inherited from the Soviet Union an extensive, highly centralised, State-operated healthcare system, which the Georgian Government struggled to maintain. Subsequent reforms were carried out to convert the old system into the current decentralised, market-driven healthcare system. Under the new system, 87% of healthcare expenditures are financed through out-of-pocket payments at the point of service. Georgia spends around 8.2% of GDP on healthcare.
In the 1990s, the Georgian Government introduced a mandatory social health insurance; however, it has been abandoned and replaced by private health insurance plans as the main system for the financing of health services in Georgia for individuals. For households living below the poverty line, private insurance coverage is paid from public funds. All other individuals are expected to purchase their own private insurance voluntarily or pay out-of pocket for services. Out-of-pocket payments remain the main source of funding for the healthcare system in Georgia.
Although a State health programme was put in place to help people living below the poverty line to increase their access to healthcare, however, there is still a large inequality in access between rural and urban areas, and among different social groups. The utilisation rate of health services has fallen dramatically in recent years, especially among the poorest demographics of society.
There are a number of issues the Georgian healthcare system faces. The quality of health services are low, and the standard on medical facilities and equipment is poor, lacking proper investment in renovation and maintenance. Access to healthcare services is an issue in the rural areas, and availability and affordability of medicines is a significant factor.
For any planned hospitalisation and primary care visits at the hospitals, the patients are required to pay upfront for services rendered. For emergency care, hospitals normally treat patients first and then subsequently invoice the patients. Officially, patients are required to pay their bills before discharge. Individual hospitals are responsible for their own budget. For visitors and expatriates it is recommended that international health insurance be taken out prior to your visit, so that you will be covered in the case of an emergency, as the nearest center of medical excellence may be outside of Georgia.
There are a large number of trained doctors in Georgia, the doctor-to-population ratio in the country is about 4.7:1,000; however they are very unevenly distributed. There are approximately three times as many doctors in major cities than in other rural areas.
In terms of South Ossetia, there are a large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) following conflicts in South Ossetia. This region is beyond the jurisdiction of the Georgian authorities, and is currently under the control of a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping force consisting of Russian troops. Medical services in South Ossetia are generally inadequate. Access to healthcare is difficult for IDPs, as out-of-pocket payments for medicines and special treatments are not covered by State health insurance. This has forced many people to let illnesses go untreated or else fall into debt. There are few medical clinics and trained personnel in the region.
The political and economic relations between Georgia and Moscow have been tense since Georgia gained its independence in 1991, coupled with Russia’s support for separatists in South Ossetia, which makes the political status of Georgia rather unstable. If you are looking for peace-of-mind knowing that medical costs will be covered in case of an accident or illness for yourself and your family while travelling to Georgia, purchasing a comprehensive travel insurance or an expat medical insurance plan will be the optimal solution for you. This will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation in the event of a serious illness or accident.
Pacific Prime is a one-stop insurance brokerage service provider for you when travelling to Georgia. We offer a wide range of policies to meet your individual needs, including benefits such as dental, maternity, inpatient, outpatient, specialist consultations, and many others. We offer a large variety of health care plans as well as travellers insurance plans. Contact our professional advisers today to enjoy full insurance protection such as an Health Insurance Plan for yourself and your family.