Medical Treatment for Ex-pats
Many ex-patriate families arrive in Moscow on various packages that are provided by the employer to the main earning spouse. These relocation packages are different to each ex-pat. Some are incredibly generous and many are austere in benefit and in allowance. Some of the lucky few have free healthcare. Free health-care is worth more than gold when abroad and even more so in a country like Russia.
If you speak the language and are a fairly relaxed person you could probably get by using a Russian state hospital but you would need to know how to play the system and it would help if you are married to a Russian citizen. If you are none of these, you will need to use one of the many private health-care centres in Moscow. On an internet search, I counted at least twenty medical centres they cover general health, dentistry as well as a whole host of other services such as cosmetic surgery and the ‘specialties’. The main big fish here are the European Medical Centre (EMC), The American Medical Centre and the SOS clinic. A simple Google web search will list their web-sites along with all their incredible services on offer. The EMC lists thirty one types of medical service. Many foreigners that use these centres have their medical bills paid directly to the clinic, so for example Belinda from Chicago, won’t have to pay any money at the reception at the ABC clinic in Moscow for little Jane’s injections as her husband’s insurance pays it directly to the clinic, few questions are asked and there are few restrictions on payments or treatments.
You could try a cheaper Russian clinic such as the Medin centre (www.medin.ru). The clinic is situated near the Metro Dobryinsky. On arrival, in the winter, you must leave your coat at the coat desk and you will be given a plastic coat ticket, failure to remove your coat may result in being shot or deported from Russia. The clinic provides two translators that are free for you to use. They speak average English but from my experience, they seem to lack a basic knowledge of common medical terminology. However they are free and try their best to help.
On arrival at the clinic, you must see them, tell them what doctor or specialty you need and then go to the floor they tell you. Find seat in the corridor and wait for your turn to be seen by the doctor. If you don’t speak Russian, you may be spoken to by a Russian who is waiting to see the same doctor as you, if you don’t understand the question, they will go in front of you. In Russia, appointment times are not usually followed. The system here is that you see the doctor when he or she has your medical records and you simply wait your turn.
Sometimes, you will be called by the doctor’s nurse to go in, sometimes you will just wait for ages it can be a question of luck. In this case, you must knock on the doctor’s door and ask to go in. If the doctor does not speak English, they will call the translator to help you. At the clinic, these translators are women. If you are a man and have a rash on your left testicle, you must tell her and she will tell the doctor and she will wait while you drop your trousers to show the doctor. It will be at embarrassing times like these, you will wish you spoke Russian as you bend over touch your toes, while you talk to the translator through the gap in your legs.
Once the doctor has understood your medical issue, he or she will tell you via the translator what you must take and give you a post-it note with the medicine you need or give you a written prescription. You will then be given a white bit of paper saying how much you must pay, go downstairs to the cash desk (“Kassa”), pay and then get your medicine from the clinic’s pharmacy. If you have insurance, get the doctor to stamp and sign your insurance form and get a clinic stamp from the grumpy woman who sits behind a glass window downstairs.
A doctor’s visit will cost approximately 1,136 roubles, a return visit will cost 936 roubles (at some of the other medical centres, you can pay from 150 Euros just to see a doctor). Blood-test prices vary and take about a week to get the results. At the clinic, the pharmacy often does not have the medicine that you need and when you ask for it you will be bluntly told in the Russian way, “No”.
Many of the doctors are in their early 50s and seem a bit bored and uninterested in their job. However, there are one or two young ones that still care, once you know the good ones, you can see them each time you go. I cannot fault this clinic as the service is often quick and you will not wait long for blood tests or for X-rays. On the downside, as you wait for the doctor you will not have a flashy plasma TV to watch, you will not be offered coffee or have a choice of glossy lifestyle or fashion magazines. However, you will save your insurance company or your employer a lot money and get as good a service at one of the big centres.
For more information and further thoughts on this, ex-pat life and other topics see English Dad In Moscow at: www.englishdadinmoscow.com