Healthcare in Kazakhstan
Now I’ve got my mind on living in Kazakhstan, one issue that people contact me about quite a bit is healthcare and medicine in Kazakhstan. What is it like, how much does it cost, how does it work?
First of all, healthcare is a lot cheaper in Kazakhstan than it is in the US. Visiting a doctor can cost around $10-20 dollars. Compare that to the $250 my doctor in the US charges.
Most people do not have any kind of insurance. They didn’t know what to do with my Blue Cross Blue Shield Blue Advantage card, for example. A lot of foreign companies do provide some kind of insurance plan but I’ve never used private insurance so I can’t make recommendations. Local businesses usually don’t provide any kind of insurance, but some companies (and a lot of government agencies) have a deal with a local clinic or hospital where you are treated for free.
One issue that you will probably run into at any clinic, especially the public ones, is that most doctors don’t make appointments. That means that you have to show up and wait in line. That can be a very long wait. Some private clinics do let you make appointments which is always nice.
Another issue is that Kazakhstan doctors tend to order a lot more tests than American doctors and will often want to treat every imperfection they find. I once went into a clinic with a pain in my side, and after a series of X-rays and inspections, they discovered that I had a stomach problem. After treating that, I still had the pain. I asked the doctor about it and she said, “Oh, no that had nothing to do with the pain. OK, let’s do some more tests to find the cause of that pain.” On the one hand, I’m glad they treated the problem with my stomach. On the other hand, they never were able to treat me for the pain and eventually it went away on its own.
Finally, Westerners might be surprised at how much medicine Kazakhstan doctors prescribe, including often shots. Where a Western doctor would prescribe an antibiotic, a Kazakh doctor will prescribe two antibiotics to be taken one after the other, a homeopathic remedy, vitamin shots and some other medicine. And yes, medical doctors often assign homeopathic remedies and sometimes they are dressed up like proper medicine. So it’s worth checking online what things are, if like me you don’t really believe in homeopathic treatments. It’s not unusual for them to send you to an acupuncturist, or a massage therapist or chiropractor too.
Other than these caveats, Kazakh medical staff in the cities is not very different from going to the doctor in the US.
I realize I’m opening up commenters to post horror stories left and right about going to the doctor in Kazakhstan, but so be it.