Health activists in Russia are reacting angrily to regulatory changes in health policies that cut off disability benefits for 500,000 people.
Russia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Protection introduced the new regulations in early 2015, claiming the new system is based on a German model that allows benefits according to the type of medical condition and its severity.
Under the new system, authorities will grant benefits up to 15,000 rubles a month ($218) to only those individual deemed to have lost 40 percent or more of their bodily functions. However, the assessment does not take into account the overall condition of the patient.
Marina Nizhergorodova, whose 5-year-old son Daniil was struck off Russia’s disability register in October, told how her family is struggling to foot the bills for his treatment of congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Under the new rules, health officials decided that he lost only 30 percent of his bodily functions and was no longer eligible for a disability benefit.
Under pressure from the disability rights groups and patients, the labor ministry eventually relaxed the restrictions to encompass patients suffering from specific conditions like type 1 diabetes, whose main victims are children and young adults.
However, the newly changed rules implemented Feb. 2 failed to stop the protesters, who claim the changes do nothing for the assessment criteria of a disability.
A petition launched by Daniil’s mother last month has gotten 8,145 supporters so far.
Russia’s economy is suffering under a slump in the price of oil, its main export, as well as Western sanctions on the heels of its conflict with eastern Ukraine.
Despite the country’s critical financial state, Russia has already poured billions of dollars in the investment for FIFA World Cup 2018, which has strained the federal budget.
The country is now considering cutting down on its military expenditures and the government’s welfare budget is being reduced to combat the crisis.