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Resume: In accordance with the estimates of the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, the free medication programme should have covered 150,000 to 200,000 persons. In 2017, there were 13,010 beneficiaries of the medication programme. In 2018, some 22,651 new beneficiaries registered for the programme. In 2018, a total of 29,483 persons benefitted (visited a pharmacy and obtained medication) from the medication programme.

Given the low involvement of the population, there was indeed a programme budget spending problem in 2018. The biggest part of the programme’s budget was spent in December 2018. In 2018, the budget for the State Programme for Providing Medicine for Chronic Diseases was set at GEL 10 million. In accordance with the adjusted data of the State Treasury, the actual execution of the programme’s budget is GEL 7.6 million whilst the programme’s execution figure was only GEL 590,000 as of the first 11 months of 2018. Therefore, the Social Service Agency signed GEL 6.5 million in contracts to purchase medication as a part of the aforementioned programme in December 2018 alone.

In December 2018, as per the decision of the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs, the State Programme for Providing Medicine for Chronic Diseases was expanded and now includes medication for Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. This change is likely stipulated by the budget spending problems.

Whilst speaking about the programme’s budget, Zurab Tchiaberashvili uses information provided by the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs which reflects the total value of medication issued directly to beneficiaries instead of the programme’s budget execution figures. In 2018, a total of GEL 1.7 million in medications were issued.

Therefore, the politician is right to emphasise the low involvement of the population in the medication programme. In regard to the programme’s budget spending component, his statement is factually inaccurate. However, the statement’s context about the problems related to budget spending is right. This is proven by the fact of spending the largest part of the budget by the end of the year in December – medications were purchased and stored.

Analysis

On 13 March 2019, European Georgia – Movement for Freedom member, Zurab Tchiaberashvili, hosted a briefing and summarised the results of the State Programme for Providing Medicine for Chronic Diseases. As stated by Mr Tchiaberashvili: “GEL 10 million was allocated for the State Programme for Providing Medicine for Chronic Diseases in 2018. Of that amount, GEL 8 million was not spent. In 2017, when the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs inaugurated the State Programme for Providing Medicine for Chronic Diseases, Davit Sergeenko claimed that 200,000 would become programme beneficiaries but these figures are deplorable. Nearly 22,000 people benefitted from that programme in the previous year and the number of beneficiaries in 2017 was 13,000.”

The Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs, Davit Sergeenko, commented upon Zurab Tchiaberashvili’s statement. As stated by the Minister, the programme’s budget is spent and medications were purchased and stored at contractor parties. However, the Minister confirms that the number of programme beneficiaries is low.

The State Programme for Providing Medicine for Chronic Diseases was launched on 1 July 2017. At the initial phase, the medication programme started to cover socially vulnerable citizens with chronic ailments. Prescription medications for chronic cardiovascular, lung and thyroid diseases as well as for type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent), comprising a total of 23 different medications, have been funded as a part of the programme. Since September 2018, the programme has expanded and started to cover old age pensioners and persons with disabilities. Of note is that socially vulnerable citizens have their medication almost fully funded (co-funding amounts to a maximum of GEL 1). Pensioners and disabled people have partial funding for their medicine and beneficiaries co-pay 50% of the medication’s market value. In December 2018, the programme expanded to cover Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. Therefore, since 1 January 2019 the programme has also been covering Georgian citizens with Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

How Many People have Benefitted from the Medication Programme?

In accordance with theinformationprovided by the Social Services Agency, some 35,561 persons registered to become beneficiaries of the State Programme for Providing Medicine for Chronic Diseases in 2017-2018. Of that number, 32,669 persons have benefitted from the programme (visited a pharmacy and obtained medication).

In 2017, 13,010 persons became beneficiaries of the State Programme for Providing Medicine for Chronic Diseases. In 2018, 22,651 new beneficiaries were registered which is largely related to the expansion of the programme. In 2018, a total of 29,483 benefitted (visited pharmacy and obtained medication) from the medication programme.

In 2017, prior to launching the medication programme, the Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs, Davit Sergeenko, indeed stated that the free medication programme should have covered 150,000 to 200,000 persons based on the Ministry’s calculations. FactCheck has previously written on this topic.

Programme Budget

Zurab Tchiaberashvili’s statement is based upon information provided by the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs. However, that information only includes the total value of medication issued directly to beneficiaries and not the entire budget of the programme. In accordance with the Ministry’s data, the total value of medications issued to beneficiaries in 2018 amounts to GEL 1.7 million.

FactCheck talked with the Head of the Public Health Protection and Programme Division of the Healthcare Department, Eka Adamia. As stated by Ms Adamia: “The figures mentioned in Zurab Tchiaberashvili’s statement are the total value of the medications obtained by beneficiaries. However, this does not mean that the programme’s budget was not executed. Of the programme’s budget, GEL 8 million was spent to purchase medication. The remainder – GEL 2 million – was saved on tenders.”

In 2018, the budget for the State Programme for Providing Medicine for Chronic Diseases was set at GEL 10 million. In accordance with the adjusted data of the State Treasury, the actual execution of the programme’s budget is GEL 7.6 million whilst this figure was only GEL 590,000 in accordance with the data for the first 11 months of 2018. This gap between the 11-month and 12-month budget execution figures indicates that the programme budget could not be spent and was fully spent by the end of the previous year. This is confirmed by the information published on the website of the State Procurement Agency which states that the Social Services Agency signed contracts valued at nearly GEL 6.5 million in order to purchase medication as a part of free medication programme.

Even though the programme budget was not fully spent in the last year, programme funding doubled in the 2019 budget and now amounts to GEL 20 million. It is true that the programme has been expanded since the beginning of January 2019 although a large part of medications were purchased and stored beforehand.