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Low-income countries South-East Asia

Achieving universal health coverage in Bangladesh

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Ahmed Mustafa and Tahmina Begum from Bangladesh wrote an assessment of their country’s progress towards universal health coverage for GNHE.

You can read the full assessment here.

The authors’ concluding points are:

  • Bangladesh faces a number of challenges from a financial protection perspective:
    • the country relies heavily on out-of-pocket payments that account for almost two-thirds of total health expenditure
    • there is evidence of a high incidence of catastrophic payments and impoverishment due to out-of-pocket spending
  • In Bangladesh, the better off:
    • pay more out of pocket for health care
    • spend proportionally more of their household resources on health care
    • receive more and better care
  • The poor pay less and receive less health care
  • The poorest of the poor simply cannot afford to pay and hence do not seek treatment
  • In most cases hospital care is pro-rich while non-hospital care is pro-poor
  • The pro-poor utilisation of outpatient services probably reflects the reliance of the poor on unqualified private informal providers
  • With the aim of achieving universal coverage, Bangladesh’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has developed a new 20-year health care financing strategy: the goal is to strengthen financial risk protection and extend health services and population coverage
  • The intention is to halve out-of-pocket payments for health care at the point of service delivery
  • The new strategy will combine funds from tax-based budgets, existing community-based and other prepayment schemes, and donor funding
  • Current low levels of health financing could be addressed through an increase in the level and efficiency of the government’s budget allocation as well as by creating a compulsory Social Health Protection Scheme
  • In order to increase access, tax-funded primary and preventive care services will remain free for all groups of the population.
  • The strategy envisages starting its health protection coverage with the poor and the formal sector. Then it will extend its coverage and benefit package to include the informal sector in order to achieve universal coverage


Read more in: Mustafa A, Begum T. 2014. Universal health coverage assessment: Bangladesh. Global Network for Health Equity (GNHE). Available at: