Health Insurance Can Help Poor and Middle-Class Households, Not Just the Rich, Says New Publication
The fifth volume in a series of in-depth reviews on the development of healthcare financing and its role in improving access to good health care, Scaling Up Affordable Health Insurance: Staying the Course contends that health insurance is an important component of helping poor families. When properly designed and coupled with public subsidies, health insurance can contribute to the well-being of poor and middle-class households, not just the rich. It can also contribute to development goals such as improved access to health care, better financial protection against the cost of illness, and reduced social exclusion.
The book, edited by Alexander Preker, Marianne E. Lindner, Dov Chernichovsky and Onno P. Schellekens, is part of the private participation in health work stream of the Investment Climate Department of the World Bank Group. It was launched at the conference, “Scaling Up Health Insurance and Financial Protection in Health” held in May. The conference was sponsored by the World Bank Group, in collaboration with the PharmAccess Foundation Health Insurance Fund, USAID, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the International Labour Organization (ILO), and featured discussions on new and integrative approaches to health insurance, as well as the nuts and bolts of implementation.
Many low- and middle-income countries suffer from low public health expenditure, poor population coverage and access to health services, as well as from high out-of-pocket expenditures resulting in vicious cycles of ill health and poverty for families. According to ILO data, one-third of the global population does not have access to health care.
The editors and authors contributing to Scaling Up Affordable Health Insurance: Staying the Course make a strong case for giving health insurance greater attention than it has received in the past. It is an important instrument—together with other financing mechanisms—for purchasing value for money from both public and private providers, achieving fiscally sustainable access to needed health services, financial protection against the impoverishing cost of illness, and health insurance coverage for social groups that are often excluded from access to publicly provided health care.
The publication provides a comprehensive review of the global experience in scaling up health insurance during the 20th and early 21st centuries. Many low- and middle-income countries are experimenting with new and innovative approaches to health care financing, including health insurance. An example is Nigeria, where subsidized health maintenance organizations (HMOs) are used to provide health insurance coverage for the population. Several representatives from these Nigerian organizations participated in the May conference at IFC, sharing their experiences with over 200 attendees from health and development organizations and agencies.
The “Scaling up Health Insurance and Financial Protection in Health” conference also featured thematic panels on policy formulation, governance and regulation, financing and institutional development, all meant to encourage dialogue and help attendees from the international development community and technical assistance agencies provide better support to their client countries on improving access by their population to essential health services.