Bulgarian Roma Most Vulnerable to Exclusion from Health Care Services

16 December 2004

According to a September 28, 2004 press release of the international organisation Médecins Sans Frontičres (MSF), as many as two million people, in large part Roma, face exclusion from Bulgarian Health Services as of October 2004, though most people have not been informed. The possible exclusion of such a large number of people from Bulgarian Health Services will be a result of failure to pay health insurance in the past four years since the change of the health system from a tax-based to an insurance-based system, MSF reported. According to the press release, more than two thousand and six hundred residents of the predominantly Romani ghetto Fakulteta in Sofia face de-registration from health services if they do not pay their health contribution arrears by October 1, 2004.

At their press conference, MSF urged an amnesty for people who cannot afford to pay back the large sums of money they owe in arrears in order to preserve the health situation of affected people, who, in many cases, already suffer from poor health. MSF predicts the inundation of medical clinics – such as the one in Fakulteta that services some twenty thousand Roma – from out of poor neighbourhoods to wealthier areas where people can afford to pay for health services. An MSF survey of nearly one thousand patients of its Fakulteta clinic revealed that 66 percent of respondents did not know they faced the possibility of being cut of from health services. According to MSF, most of the respondents were social aid recipients who believed this covered their insurance costs – 77 percent of the people surveyed claimed to be unaware that they were required to make a contribution of 12 Bulgarian leva (approximately 6 Euro) per month to the health system. Ninety-five percent of the people surveyed stated that they could not afford to pay back their debts.



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