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Open Access Open Badges Research article

An analysis of trends and determinants of health insurance and healthcare utilisation in the Russian population between 2000 and 2004: the 'inverse care law' in action

Francesca Perlman*, Dina Balabanova and Martin McKee

Author Affiliations

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London, WC1E 7HT, UK

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BMC Health Services Research 2009, 9:68  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-68

Published: 27 April 2009



The break-up of the USSR brought considerable disruption to health services in Russia. The uptake of compulsory health insurance rose rapidly after its introduction in 1993. However, by 2000 coverage was still incomplete, especially amongst the disadvantaged. By this time, however, the state health service had become more stable, and the private sector was growing. This paper describes subsequent trends and determinants of healthcare insurance coverage in Russia, and its relationship with health service utilisation, as well as the role of the private sector.


Data were from the Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Survey, an annual household panel survey (2000–4) from 38 centres across the Russian Federation. Annual trends in insurance coverage were measured (2000–4). Cross-sectional multivariate analyses of the determinants of health insurance and its relationship with health care utilisation were performed in working-age people (18–59 years) using 2004 data.


Between 2000 and 2004, coverage by the compulsory insurance scheme increased from 88% to 94% of adults; however 10% of working-age men remained uninsured. Compulsory health insurance coverage was lower amongst the poor, unemployed, unhealthy and people outside the main cities. The uninsured were less likely to seek medical help for new health problems. 3% of respondents had supplementary (private) insurance, and rising utilisation of private healthcare was greatest amongst the more educated and wealthy.


Despite high population insurance coverage, a multiply disadvantaged uninsured minority remains, with low utilisation of health services. Universal insurance could therefore increase access, and potentially contribute to reducing avoidable healthcare-related mortality. Meanwhile, the socioeconomically advantaged are turning increasingly to a growing private sector.