Informal payments for health care services: the case of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine

T. Stepurko, M.I. Pavlova, I. Gryga, L. Murauskiene, W. Groot

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Abstract

This paper analyzes patterns of tips, gifts and bribes paid by patients for health care services. Informal payments are more prevalent in developing and transition countries because the economic and socio-cultural environment is more conducive to “gifts”-exchange as a means to maintain the underfunded health care system. Moreover, most eastern european countries have experienced wider socio-political reforms, which have also affected health care service provision and have led to a greater reliance on informal patient payments in the access and quality assurance of health care services. This study provides evidence on public attitudes and recent experiences with informal patient payments in post-soviet and post-communist countries, namely in lithuania, ukraine and poland. The empirical results suggest a lower share of informal patient payments as well as a prevalence of more negative attitudes towards informal patient payments in poland compared to lithuania and ukraine. Informal payments are more common and more expensive for in-patient health care services in contrast to out-patient ones in all countries. Still, in post-soviet lithuania and ukraine informal patient payments co-exist with other types of patient payments such as quasi-formal patient payments. When clear regulation of the basic package and formal patient charges is lacking, patients experience a mixture of payment obligations. About three quarters of the respondents support the statement that informal patient payments should be eradicated. It is proposed therefore that governments of the countries should meet public expectations and implement a strategy to deal with informal patient payments. In all three countries, informal patient payments (both “bribes and fees”) are a symptom of system failure and provide a means for patients to obtain the health care they desire, which the government is not able to guarantee. Suitable regulations coupled with (dis)incentives may decrease the level of informal payments for health care provision.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-58
JournalJournal of Eurasian Studies
Volume6
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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