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On 9 September 2013, as a part of his election campaign, Georgian Dream presidential candidate Giorgi Margvelashvili met with voters in Sagarejo and touched on the matter of priorities. Reflecting on the reforms implemented in the healthcare and social welfare systems, he outlined the following points:

  • Every citizen is insured
  • Starting from September, pension has grown to GEL 150
  • Childbirth became free with 6,000 women having benefitted from this change

On 19 September, presenting his election programme at Tbilisi’s Sports Palace, Margvelashvili stated that:

  • Social assistance has doubled
FactCheck

inquired about the accuracy of the facts indicated in the presidential candidate’s statements.

According to the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs,the universal healthcare programme began on 28 February 2013 and applied to all Georgian citizens who were not insured by 28 February 2013. The Ministry informs that in order to become a healthcare programme beneficiary, one needs to register in any of the medical establishments involved in the universal healthcare programme. The programme foresaw the funding of 453 nosology and family physician services as well as basic laboratory analysis. As of 22 July, 425 provider establishments have been engaged in the programme with 1,347,658 beneficiaries having registered for the programme in the period between 28 February and 22 July. In this period, emergency ambulatory service was rendered to 41,713 patients while 15,275 patients received emergency stationary service. In total, GEL 6,361,132 was spent on the programme.

Starting from 1 July, the universal healthcare programme was expanded and a second stage kicked off. Funding for urgent cases was enlarged. As informed by the Ministry, the programme envisages funding for the services of family physicians in the ambulatory as well as for instrumental and laboratory research. The programme also provides partial financing for planned surgeries with a yearly limit of GEL 15,000 and 30% of the cost paid by the patient himself. The universal healthcare programme also partially covers the treatment for oncological patients with a yearly limit of GEL 12,000, while the patient’s share in funding is 20%. Furthermore, the programme foresees 10-30% co-funding in different cases. The programme, however, does not cover the costs of medication.

Starting from 1 July, the state is allocating funds for pregnant women with the limit for physiological childbirth equal to GEL 500 while in the case of Caesarean section the limit is raised to GEL 800. If the Caesarean section is performed without doctor’s directions and based solely on the patient’s preference, the state provides only GEL 500. Normally, the sums provided by the abovementioned programme do not suffice to fully cover the costs of childbirth. A case in point is the Chachava Clinic

where medical service costs in the case of physiological delivery start at GEL 550 and reach GEL 2,950 while in the case of a Caesarean section, the costs range from GEL 1,140 to GEL 3,550. The Imedi Clinic charges GEL 690 or more for physiological childbirth while the Caesarean section procedure costs start at GEL 890. In the Shalva (Davit) Koridze Maternity Hospital Ltd, the costs of physiological childbirth equal GEL 600 or more while patients are to pay at least GEL 900 for a Caesarean section. In the JLC Rustavi Maternity Hospital, the costs for physiological childbirth and Caesarean section start, respectively, from GEL 580 and GEL 800. In the Davit Gagua Clinic, also respectively, the costs start at GEL 650 and GEL 995 while the Embryo Maternity Hospital has prices starting at GEL 625 and GEL 900.

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Margvelashvili also states that the universal healthcare programme has funded childbirth costs for 6,000 women since 1 July. As reported to us by the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, the universal healthcare programme provided funding for 7,808 accouchements in the period between 1 July and 18 September. Of these, 5,204 were physiological deliveries while 2,604 cases included the procedure of the Caesarean section. As of 18 September, the Ministry received 2,705 applications of funding for childbirth or Caesarean section since the kickoff of the programme, amounting to a total of GEL 1,993,619.04.

Social Assistance

As reported by the Ministry, starting from 1 July social assistance was doubled for citizens below the poverty line with this doubled assistance to be given to 144,000 households (over 435,000 Georgian citizens). The Ministry further clarifies that social assistance to the first member of the recipient family amounted to GEL 30 and every additional member received GEL 24 whereas presently GEL 60 is granted to the first member of the family and GEL 48 is given out to every additional member.

mar2 Along with increasing social assistance, the government received criticism from the opposition for suspending assistance to numerous citizens. This fact has been previously addressed by FactCheck.

As revealed by our research, in 2013 the Social Service Agency discontinued or suspended subsistence allowance to those households from the unified database of socially unprotected families whose income was proven by the information of the Revenue Service to be higher than declared. The methodology for assessing the socio-economic status of socially unprotected families was the same as before although some changes did occur in the administering process starting from May of 2013. Consequently, in 2013 the number of social assistance recipient families was 21,965 (69,280 citizens) lower than in 2012.

Moreover, as reported by the Social Service Agency, in 2012 the Agency was planning a profound revision of targeted social assistance including a change in the methodology for the evaluation of the socio-economic status of socially unprotected families. It is impossible to foresee what the formula would exactly be like as it would depend on the results of the research conducted in the process of working out a new formula.

Our conversation with the representative of the Agency further revealed that with the help of UNICEF, the Ministry had already started working on changing the formula. It was also emphasised that “as a very substantial part of the Georgian population is active in the non-formal sector, no formula could be based solely upon income.”

As for pensions, the website of the Georgian Government informs that starting from 1 September of the current year pensions and other social assistance of Georgia have seen increases.

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  • The state age pension was increased from GEL 125 to GEL 150. The increase affected 681,392 pensioners.
  • The pension for adults with severe disabilities (according to the old classification, first group invalids), was raised from GEL 125 to GEL 150. The raise affected 21,892 individuals.
  • The pension for adults with significant disabilities (according to the old classification, second group invalids) grew from GEL 70 to GEL 100. The growth affected 72,200 individuals.
  • The pension for children with disabilities, as well as for individuals having disabilities from childhood, went up from GEL 70 to GEL 100. The raise affected 12,921 individuals. This same category includes those citizens who received household assistance along with the pension, both of which together amounted to GEL 92.
  • The assistance to families with no breadwinners grew from GEL 55 to GEL 100. The growth affected 26,700 individuals.
  • The assistance to individuals recognised as the victims of political repressions went up from GEL 62 to GEL 107. The raise affected 1,350 individuals.
  • The state compensations and state academic stipends were increased from GEL 272 to GEL 292. The increase affected 17,121 individuals.
  • Ultimately, 1,272,250 individuals benefitted from the increase. As reported by the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, as of September 2012, GEL 110,922,825 were allocated for social assistance whereas starting from September 2013, these allocations amount to GEL 145,529,303.
With regard to this issue FactCheck

also checked the statements made by the Parliamentary Minority claiming that in 2013 they were planning to increase the pensions to USD 100 as well. The draft budget for 2013 presented to the Parliament by the United National Movement, which we requested as public information, indeed foresaw the increase of pensions to USD 100.

Conclusion In the course of checking the statement FactCheck

established that indeed each willing individual is able to participate in the universal healthcare programme and the participation requires a registration in the medical institution of one’s choice. The programme envisages a set of services which we are not discussing in detail.

Starting from September, the age pension and assistance for adults with severe disabilities was raised to GEL 150; the pension for adults with significant disabilities, children with disabilities and individuals having disabilities from childhood was increased from GEL 70 to GEL 100. Social assistance has grown for families with no breadwinners and individuals recognised as the victims of political repressions. The increase has affected the state compensations and the state academic stipends as well. As reported by the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, starting from 1 July social assistance was doubled to those below the poverty line. It is to be noted, however, that the number of families receiving social assistance in 2013 is 21,965 (69,280 citizens) less than in the previous year.

Since 1 July, the state allocates funds for financing the patronage of pregnant women and childbirth in which the limit for physiological childbirth is GEL 500 and for Caesarean section – GEL 800. As a rule, however, these funds do not cover the costs of childbirth fully and the programme beneficiaries are bound to pay the remaining amount with their own resources and so childbirth is technically not “free” for citizens. Our query confirmed that 7,808 cases of childbirth were registered in the universal healthcare programme in the period from 1 July to 18 September.

Accordingly, FactCheck

concludes that Giorgi Margvelashvili’s statement claiming that:

  • Every citizen is insured
  • Starting from September, pension has grown to GEL 150
  • Childbirth became free with 6,000 women having benefitted from this change
  • Social assistance has doubled
is MOSTLY TRUE.