Based on a household survey conducted in Tbilisi, Georgia, in 2000, this paper examines current patterns of health care-seeking behaviour and the extent of out-of-pocket payments. Results show that health care services are a financial burden and that private (out-of-pocket) payment creates financial barriers to accessing health services. Members of the poorest households are less likely to seek care than people from more affluent households, and devote a higher share of household monthly expenditure to health care. Households have adopted various strategies to overcome these financial barriers, but the strategies are likely to contribute to both declining economic status and worsening health outcomes. The paper provides an evidence base to help direct future policy reform in Georgia. Government needs to: 1) prioritize public financing of services for the poor, in particular through amending the Basic Benefit Package so that it better reflects the needs of the poor; 2) promote the quality and utilization of primary care services; 3) address the issue of rational drug use; and 4) consider mobilizing out-of-pocket payments on a pre-paid basis through formal or community-based risk pooling schemes.
Health Policy and Planning (2005) 20 (4) 232-242 [doi:10.1093/heapol/czi029]