Background: Roma in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) face problems in accessing health care, and a lack of access to statutory health insurance schemes is a key factor. This study seeks to quantify differences in health insurance coverage between Roma and non-Roma and assess whether variations can be explained by socio-economic factors.
Methods: Secondary household survey data collected in 12 CEE countries in 2011 were analysed. A univariate analysis assessed the effect of Roma status on insurance coverage by country. Multivariate analyses were used to progressively adjust for socio-demographic factors, employment status and income. Country-specific literature was drawn on to examine the context of the findings.
Results: Lack of insurance coverage for Roma populations varied considerably between countries, from 2.8% without insurance in Slovakia to 67.7% in Albania. Roma were significantly less likely to have health insurance than non-Roma in all countries except Slovakia and Serbia. The greatest differences in Roma and non-Roma insurance coverage were in Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania. When adjusting for employment status and income, the gap between Roma and non-Roma remained significant in Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova.
Conclusion: Roma are significantly less likely to have insurance coverage in most CEE countries, and this gap remains when adjusting for socio-economic differences between Roma and non-Roma in many countries. Much needs to be done to address the known barriers that Roma face in accessing insurance coverage, such as tackling problems related to documentation and the receipt of social benefits.
© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association. All rights reserved.