By Vusala Abbasova
Azerbaijan intends to enforce the use of mandatory medical insurance to ensure citizens receive high-quality medical care.
The Azerbaijani government has decided to enforce the requirement from January 2016, but the budget for the program has yet to be defined.
Expert Hayal Mamedxanlı praised the idea of introducing compulsory medical insurance but warned that implementing such a program would require heavy financing.
The mandatory insurance program ensures citizens receive free, high-quality medical care and eliminates unofficial payments from the health system.
Moreover, the financial resources required for providing this health insurance will be supplemented by insurance contributions from employers.
The initial insurance premium will be 4 percent of the insured individual's salary, Deputy of Parliament of Azerbaijan Musa Guliyev said on October 30.
Guliyev noted that 2 percent of the premium will be paid by the employer and the remaining 2 percent by the employee. He believes the sum could be raised in the future.
"This sum amounts to some 7 percent of the individual's salary in some countries, but it should be noted that wages in Azerbaijan aren't that high. Therefore, I think the sum of 4 percent of one's salary is optimal," Guliyev added.
However, Mamedxanlı is certain that full implementation of compulsory health insurance in the country will require some 2-3 billion manats (about $1.9-2.8 billion).
Currently, the government is able to pay only 10-20 manats (about $9-19) in premiums, which is insufficient for adequate insurance coverage, as even a regular consultation with a doctor costs 20-25 manats (about $19-23), he added.
The insurance premium should be no less than 200 manats (some $190), or the compulsory health insurance program will fail, according to the expert.
Mamedxanlı noted that some companies in the country are now ready to implement the insurance program.
He suggested rolling out the pilot project in a single region in Azerbaijan rather than throughout the country.
Guliyev supported the idea of a small-scale pilot project in a single region to analyze the program and correct any deficiencies that are discovered along the way.
In his opinion, this project should be realized gradually.
Moreover, he believes it would be better to introduce this type of insurance for certain categories of the population or for those suffering from various diseases. It is also necessary to define the limits of the health insurance package, Guliyev said.
The MP also noted that it was necessary to permit all clinics to provide services covered by compulsory health insurance to create healthy competition in the field.
Therefore, there is no need to distinguish between public and private hospitals in introducing the insurance program.
Generally, the program will have a positive effect on the overall health of Azerbaijanis, Guliyev stated.
Finance Minister Samir Sharifov recently voiced his belief that the implementation of the program in the country would be successful.
"There are no obstacles to introducing compulsory health insurance in Azerbaijan," Sharifov said.
The new mandate will halve health service expenses. The absence of such a program is thought to have limited the quality of the country’s healthcare industry, so it is an important benefit for citizens.
Azerbaijan citizens will receive an insurance card that must be presented when they seek treatment. This card will cover payment for all procedures, drawing funds from a pool of collected insurance fees.
The Azerbaijani government has called for the introduction of mandatory health insurance for all employees for the period 2016-2019.
To develop the insurance system, Azerbaijan will need to focus on improving its legal framework. The country passed a law on medical insurance in 1999.
Under this law, a compulsory form of health insurance is an integral part of the state's social insurance policy and ensures the provision of medicines and medical services to the population.