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Measuring progress towards UHC

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If you missed our posts last year, remember to read GNHE’s perspective on practical approaches countries can take to measuring their progress towards UHC.

A summary of key messages on this topic is available here.

Two policy briefs that provide more details on how to measure progress towards access and financial risk protection, respectively, are available here.

High-income countries Low-income countries Lower-middle-income countries Upper-middle-income countries

Improving the measurement of financial risk protection

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HOT OFF THE PRESS

 

To celebrate international UHC Day on 12 December, GNHE has just published a policy brief on how to improve the measurement of financial risk protection.

This is a companion piece to a similar brief on improving the measurement of health care use (available here).

If you want to read the full financial risk protection brief, click here.

 

The key messages of the financial risk protection brief are:

  • A key element of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is financial risk protection (FRP) for all
  • Equitable financial protection means that everyone, irrespective of their level of income, is free from financial hardship caused by using needed health services
  • FRP must be measured alongside, and in addition to, the other dimension of UHC, which is access to needed health services: this is because UHC can only be achieved when both dimensions are addressed
  • Assessment of FRP should go beyond the conventional measures of financial catastrophe and impoverishment from out-of-pocket spending, because these under-estimate the level of financial risk
  • Measurement should seek to be inclusive and comprehensive, covering the whole population (both those who use health services and those who are unable to afford the use of health services when needed)
  • If the traditional measures are used, they should be interpreted accordingly – as simply the proportion of the population who use health services and are consequently impoverished or face financial catastrophe

 

Ataguba JE, Lu JR, Muiser J, Knaul FM. Assessing progress to UHC – the GNHE perspective: Financial risk protection. Available at: http://gnhe.org.

 

Africa Low-income countries

Achieving universal health coverage in Uganda

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Zikusooka , Kwesiga, Lagony and Abewe, of HealthNet Consult in Uganda, wrote an assessment of their country’s progress towards universal health coverage for GNHE.

You can read the full assessment here.

The authors’ main conclusions are:

  • Tax-based funds contribute a relatively small share of total health financing in Uganda
  • The public sector is heavily constrained in providing an adequate range and quality of services
  • The Uganda population reverts to seeking care from the large private sector, which is perceived to have better quality services
  • The fact that patients have to pay on an out-of-pocket basis for private care intensifies the exposure to financial risk across the population
  • With very limited financial protection and highly fragmented risk pools, there is very little income and risk cross-subsidisation in Uganda
  • As a consequence, utilisation of health care services is largely dependent on the ability to pay rather than need
  • Furthermore, purchasing arrangements do not encourage efficient, high-quality service provision or the provision of services that meet patients’ needs
  • To address some of these problems, the country needs to utilise the current mechanisms put in place to ensure donor assistance is more useful by increasing its effectiveness and equity.
  • The prospects of increasing health resources through the budget seem to be dwindling as the health sector has been crowded out by other government priorities, particularly infrastructural development and the education sector
  • Leveraging other sector-specific resources through implementing mandatory health insurance is thus an area where Uganda should look to increase public sector health resources (Uganda is still considering this policy option)
  • As has been done in other countries in Africa, Uganda could also look at tax levies earmarked for the health sector
  • Finally, wastage is a major issue in use of health sector resources. Making better use of existing resources would require government to institute mechanisms for monitoring and incentivising efficient performance

 

 

Zikusooka CM , Kwesiga B, Lagony S, Abewe C. 2014. Universal health coverage assessment: Uganda. Global Network for Health Equity (GNHE). Available at: http://gnhe.org.

 

Low-income countries South-East Asia

GNHE launches new UHC assessment for Nepal

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Shiva Adhikari, from the Patan Multiple Campus at Tribhuvan University and Health Economics Association in Nepal, has just written an assessment of his country’s progress towards universal health coverage for GNHE.

You can read the full assessment here.

 

The author’s main conclusions are:

  • Nepal’s health financing and expenditure indicators are slightly better than those of the average low-income country, but out-of-pocket expenditure is still extremely high
  • This means that financial protection is not adequate for large numbers of people
  • Despite the provision of free essential services to the poor, geographic access to quality services is still pro-rich
  • There is growing pressure on the government of Nepal to expand the benefits covered under the free essential health package, as well as to expand coverage to all Nepalese
  • There is also growing pressure to increase government expenditure on health and improve the efficiency of the health system.
  • Proposals for new financing mechanisms, such as health insurance, are being debated.
  • Meeting these demands will be difficult for Nepal, given its low-income status.
  • In relation to expanding the fiscal space for health, a first consideration is economic growth, as higher growth rates would broaden the tax base and increase government revenue, especially if tax administration could be improved as well. Unfortunately, in recent years real GDP growth has been quite low.
  • Another option for government is to expand its domestic borrowing although there are arguments that this could affect the economy. Increasing donor funding, or international loans, also does not seem a very viable option, given that Nepal already receives considerable funding from these sources.
  • From a macro-fiscal perspective, therefore, the prospects of finding additional public resources for health are relatively low, unless health can increase its share of the government budget. Some consider that this would be difficult to argue for, as Nepal already spends a relatively large share of its budget on the health sector.
  • After analysing all these potential sources, a report produced by World Bank suggested that the only realistic option for Nepal is improving the efficiency of existing health expenditure.
  • However, more thinking may need to be done on how to increase tax-based financing – through widening the tax base, improving tax administration and ear-marking certain taxes – given the remaining problems with financial protection and inequities in access in Nepal.

 

Adhikari S. 2015. Universal health coverage assessment: Nepal. Global Network for Health Equity (GNHE). Available at: http://gnhe.org.

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: http://gnhe.org.