A useful guide to health insurance in Russia, including state medical insurance in Russia and private health insurance and international options for Russian health insurance coverage.
Health insurance in Russia is free for citizens and residents under the state Russian health insurance system, while those that don’t qualify will need to consider private health insurance. Russia’s Obligatory Medical Insurance (OMI) covers most basic treatments, although the Russian healthcare system may not have the best reputation in the world. The quality of care you’ll receive varies drastically around the country, with major cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg boasting some of the best hospitals while many rural areas have few or no medical facilities at all.
In addition to this service gap, public healthcare and medical insurance in Russia are suffering from budget cuts resulting in longer waiting times for patients. With this in mind, many expats moving to Russia take out private health insurance or use international insurance to ensure the quality of healthcare standard. Read Expatica’s guide to learn more about the Russian healthcare system, including:
- Russian health insurance for visitors
- Medical insurance for Russian visas
- Obligations to take out health insurance in Russia
- Applying for medical insurance in Russia
- Private health insurance
- Russian health insurance for students
- Sick pay in Russia
It’s not as easy as it once was to get healthcare coverage when visiting Russia. In January 2016, the long-standing reciprocal healthcare agreement between Russia and the UK was cancelled, and it’s a similar case if you’re visiting from the US. Foreigners are typically required to take out medical insurance to get a Russian visa or check that their private health insurance plan covers them in Russia.
Foreigners from the EU who carry an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) should check with their home government whether they can access healthcare in Russia before travelling or relocating to Moscow. Non-EU citizens need to check if their home country has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Russia and what they could be entitled to.
The US Embassy in Moscow provides a list of English-speaking doctors, dentists, opticians, pharmacies and hospitals for expats and visitors to the capital.
The rules and regulations surrounding medical insurance for Russian visas are renowned for changing on a regular basis. You will need to check with the Russian mission in your home country to see if you require медицинская страховка (medical insurance) for Russia and the latest conditions. You will typically need to arrange medical insurance for a Russia visa before it will be approved.
State health insurance in Russia is available to anyone with the right to live and work in Russia. Russian health insurance is funded by contributions from your employer, who pays around 2–3 percent of your salary as social security tax, with a percentage of this going toward the national healthcare fund.
Foreign nationals also need to obtain additional voluntary medical insurance in Russia (VHI) when moving. Your employer will often purchase this for you, although if you don’t receive comprehensive health insurance as a workplace benefit you may find the most basic discounted packages don’t cover you enough.
In some cases, unemployed foreign citizens with a residence permit may also be entitled to a CMI policy. They can apply for it via any medical insurance company which is subscribed to the CMI system.
Your employer is responsible for applying for state medical insurance in Russia on your behalf, although it is possible to register yourself by visiting a Russian insurance provider with your passport and residence permit.
It’s important to choose the right clinic when your register, as healthcare is often limited to only one location. If you’re signing up yourself, it’s worth taking a Russian speaker along with you as the staff are unlikely to speak English, or use our Russian medical dictionary.
If you have children, you’ll need to register them under your OMI plan so they can also receive medical insurance for Russia. You should be able to do this by visiting the Russian Ministry of Health (or министерство здравоохранения in Russian) with your passports, residence permit and your child’s birth certificate.
Anyone can apply for private health insurance in Russia, although it’s easier if you live in a big city. For example, there are a number of private clinics and healthcare providers in Moscow, many equipped with English-speaking doctors and staff. Private health insurance in Russia is as expensive as abroad in some cases, so it pays to shop around for a good deal.
While private health insurance in Russia comes in many forms, nearly 90 percent of insurance plans are taken out by businesses for their employees as a workplace benefit. In addition to workplace Russian health insurance, it’s also possible to take out individual, family, group and international health insurance for more coverage.
Some of the largest health insurance companies in Russia include:
It’s possible to take out tailored private health insurance plans, which typically cover some or all of the following:
- Inpatient care – covers treatment that requires an overnight stay at a hospital.
- Outpatient care – covers treatment that doesn’t require an overnight stay; usually offered as an optional benefit.
- Chronic condition insurance – covers illnesses that have no definitive cure.
- Pre-existing condition insurance – covers illnesses that existed before the plan was taken out; most plans will have a moratorium period for pre-existing conditions.
- Emergency evacuation insurance – covers transport to the nearest private medical centre to receive treatment if you can’t get adequate care in your local area.
- Maternity and newborn child coverage – covers scans, classes and maternity care for mothers, and for newborn children it includes vaccinations and doctors visits, and in some cases a 24-hour hotline with access to a paediatrician; there may be a waiting period after signing up for your policy when you can’t apply for maternity care.
- Dental insurance – the majority of Russian citizens pay for private dental care, and if your health insurance plan doesn’t offer much protection you may consider expanding it; find dentists in Moscow with Expatica’s dental listings in Russia.
- Vaccinations – generally covered as part of your outpatient plan.
- Alternative therapies – includes the likes of homeopathy, osteopathy, acupuncture and herbal medicine.
Should you choose private health insurance?
Most middle-class Russians and expats living in Russia have private health insurance, international health insurance or simply pay upfront at private clinics when required. You can find many international medical centres in Moscow where English is spoken but these clinics tend to be more expensive than local facilities, unless you have private health insurance.
Private health insurance improves your chances of shorter waiting times, better comfort, better standard of care and being seen by a doctor who speaks your language. Russian health insurance premiums are usually calculated based on your medical history, the level of coverage you require and its geographical range.
Some foreign health insurance providers have contact with only a limited number of medical clinics, which means you can only use certain healthcare providers under your insurance policy. You can find links to the main private health centres in Moscow on Expatica’s Moscow hospital listings.
Some providers require pre-authorisation, meaning you need to contact your insurance company before any using medical services in Russia. Unless your insurance company has a direct billing agreement with the medical clinic you intend to use, you will have to advance the payment and then claim reimbursement from the insurance company later.
Students need to sign up to a voluntary policy for Russian health insurance upon arrival in the country, with their package covering at least inpatient and outpatient care and hospitalisation at centres close to their place of studies. Students in Russia should be able to see doctors by showing their student ID card or passport and their medical policy.
University students can also opt to take out private health insurance, either an international insurance policy in your home country or a Russian health insurance plan once you arrive in the country. If you choose the former option, you’ll usually pay for any medical services in cash and then be reimbursed by your private health insurance company when you arrive back home after your studies.
Your employer must pay sick pay while you’re off work due to illness, although you’ll need to provide them with a medical certificate when you return to work. Your employer only pays for the first three days themselves – after this time sick pay is covered by the Russian Social Security Fund.
How much sick pay you receive depends on your average salary in the previous two years. Since January 2015, foreign employees temporarily staying in Russia are also covered by the social insurance fund, as long as the employer made the necessary social security contributions for at least six months before the illness occurred.