Innovations in Health System Finance in Developing and Transitional Economies: Volume 21


Table of contents

(17 chapters)
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Pages xiii-xxi
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The first section of this volume is concerned with the changing context for health financing in developing and transitional countries. Two chapters address contemporary issues. The first, by Cristina Gutiérrez-Delgado and Veronica Guajardo-Barrón, describes the challenges created by the “double burden” of disease in low- and middle-income countries created by the coexistence of the persistent burden of communicable disease with emerging problems of chronic and non-communicable illness. Drawing on the Mexican experience of expanding needs for anti-retroviral therapy, renal replacement therapy, and screening and prevention of cervical cancers, they present new evidence about the burden placed by these conditions on public health budgets. They also show the potential value of adopting a risk factor approach to economic evaluation of chronic disease management, presenting estimates of the financial burden imposed by four diseases strongly associated with overweight and obesity. They conclude that strengthened stewardship functions, including generating data about disease burdens and expenditure, and greater use of explicit priority setting processes, are needed to help resolve the tensions between equity and efficiency.

Objective – To present the challenges arising from the double burden of disease in developing countries, focusing on the case of Mexico, and to propose a strategy for addressing these challenges.

Methodology/approach – Mortality and morbidity data are presented for selected countries and groups of diseases. Specific examples of the pressures faced by the public health services in Mexico to provide and finance treatment for communicable and non-communicable diseases are used to illustrate the extent of the challenges in the context of a country with limited resources.

Findings – Public health systems in developing countries face strong pressure to provide and finance treatment for both communicable and non-communicable diseases, inevitably producing competition among diseases and conditions and requiring trade-offs between equity and efficiency goals.

Implications for policy – In developing countries, addressing the challenges presented by the double burden of disease requires a multidisciplinary approach to develop and strengthen the policymaking process. This involves the use of analytical tools applied to each stage of the planning cycle, in particular the use of an explicit priority setting process together with monitoring and assessment to strengthen decision making under limited resources.

Objective – This chapter assesses the extent to which previous economic and financial crises had a negative impact on health outcomes and health financing. In addition, we review evidence related to the effectiveness of different policy measures undertaken in past crises to protect access to health services, especially for the poor and vulnerable. The current global crisis is unique both in terms of its scale and origins. Unlike most previous instances, the current crisis has its origins in developed countries, initially the United States, before it spread to middle- and lower-income countries. The current crisis is now affecting almost all countries at all levels of income. This chapter addresses several key questions aimed at helping inform possible policy responses to the current crisis from the perspective of the health sector: What is the nature of the current crisis and in what ways does it differ from previous experiences? What are some of the key lessons from previous crises? How have governments responded previously to protect health from such macroeconomic shocks? How can we improve the likelihood of positive action today?

Methodology/approach – The chapter reviews the literature on the impact of financial crises on health outcomes and health expenditures and on the effectiveness of past policy efforts to protect human development during periods of economic downturn. It also presents analysis of household surveys and health expenditure data to track health seeking behavior and out-of-pocket expenditures by households during times of financial crisis.

Findings – Evidence from previous crises indicates that health-related impacts during economic downturns can occur through various channels. The impact in households experiencing reductions in employment and income could be manifest in terms of poorer nutritional outcomes and lower levels of utilization of health care when needed. Households may become impoverished, reduce needed health services, and experience reductions in consumption as a result of health shocks occurring during a time when their economic vulnerability has increased. Women, children, the poor, and informal sector workers are likely to be most at risk of experiencing negative health-related consequences in a crisis. Real government spending per capita on health care could decline due to reduced revenues, currency devaluations, and potential reductions in external aid flows. Low-income countries with weak fiscal positions are likely to be the most vulnerable.

Implications for policy – Past crises can inform policy-making aimed at protecting health outcomes and reducing financial risk from health shocks. Evidence from previous crises indicates that broad-brush strategies that maintained overall levels of government health spending tended not to be successful, failing to protect access to quality health services especially for the poor. It is particularly vital to ensure access to essential health commodities, which in many low-income countries are imported, in the face of weakening exchange rates. Focused efforts to sustain the supply of lower-level basic services, combined with targeted demand-side approaches like conditional cash transfers may be more effective than broader sectoral approaches. Low-income countries may need specific short-term measures to ensure that health outcomes do not suffer.

Objective – This chapter assesses health equity achievements of the Thai health system before and after the introduction of the universal coverage (UC) policy. It examines five dimensions of equity: equity in financial contributions, the incidence of catastrophic health expenditure, the degree of impoverishment as a result of household out-of-pocket payments for health, equity in health service use and the incidence of public subsidies for health.

Methodology – The standard methods proposed by O’Donnell, van Doorslaer, and Wagstaff (2008b) were used to measure equity in financial contribution, healthcare utilization and public subsidies, and in assessing the incidence of catastrophic health expenditure and impoverishment. Two major national representative household survey datasets were used: Socio-Economic Surveys and Health and Welfare Surveys.

Findings – General tax was the most progressive source of finance in Thailand. Because this source dominates total financing, the overall outcome was progressive, with the rich contributing a greater share of their income than the poor. The low incidence of catastrophic health expenditure and impoverishment before UC was further reduced after UC. Use of healthcare and the distribution of government subsidies were both pro-poor: in particular, the functioning of primary healthcare (PHC) at the district level serves as a “pro-poor hub” in translating policy into practice and equity outcomes.

Policy implications – The Thai health financing reforms have been accompanied by nationwide extension of PHC coverage, mandatory rural health service by new graduates and systems redesign, especially the introduction of a contracting model and closed-ended provider payment methods. Together, these changes have led to a more equitable and more efficient health system. Institutional capacity to generate evidence and to translate it into policy decisions, effective implementation and comprehensive monitoring and evaluation are essential to successful system-level reforms.

Objective – The implications of social health insurance (SHI) for labor markets have featured prominently in recent debates over the merits of SHI and general revenue financing. It has been argued that by raising the nonwage component of labor costs, SHI reduces firms’ demand for labor, lowers employment levels and net wages, and encourages self-employment and informal working arrangements. At the national level, SHI has been claimed to reduce a country's competitiveness in international markets and to discourage foreign direct investment (FDI). The transition from general revenue finance to SHI that occurred during the 1990s in many of the central and eastern European and central Asian countries provides a unique opportunity to investigate empirically these claims.

Methodology/approach – We employ regression-based generalizations of difference-in-differences (DID) and instrumental variables (IV) on country-level panel data from 28 countries for the period 1990–2004.

Findings – We find that, controlling for gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, SHI increases (gross) wages by 20%, reduces employment (as a share of the population) by 10%, and increases self-employment by 17%. However, we find no significant effects of SHI on unemployment (registered or self-reported), agricultural employment, a widely used measure of the size of the informal economy, or FDI.

Implications for policy – We do not claim that our results imply that SHI adoption everywhere must necessarily reduce employment and increase self-employment. Nonetheless, our results ought to serve as a warning to those contemplating shifting the financing of health care from general revenues to a SHI system.

Objective – To understand the role and influence of villagers’ trust for the health insurer on enrollment in a community-based health insurance (CBHI) scheme in Cambodia.

Methodology/approach – This study was conducted in northwest Cambodia where a CBHI scheme operates with the highest enrollment rates in the country. A mixed method approach was employed to gauge how individuals in the community trust the health insurer, and whether this plays a role in their decisions to enroll in CBHI schemes. Focus groups and household surveys were carried out to identify and measure trust levels, and to explore the association between insurer trust and enrollment in CBHI schemes.

Findings – Although villagers generally trusted the health insurance organization, villagers with poor experiences with other organizations in the past were less willing to trust the insurer. Insurer trust represented a combination of interpersonal and impersonal trust. After controlling for demographic factors, health care utilization, and household socio-economic status, insurer trust levels for villagers who newly enrolled (RRR=1.07, p<0.001) and renewed insurance (RRR=1.15, p<0.001) were significantly higher than those who never enrolled in CBHI schemes.

Implications for policy – This study illustrates the relationship between CBHI enrollment and villagers’ trust for the health insurer in a low-income, post-conflict country. It highlights the need for staff of health insurance organizations to place greater emphasis on building trusting interpersonal relationships with villagers. Understanding the nature of trust for the health insurer is essential to improve health insurance enrollment and protect people in poor rural communities against the impact of health-related shocks.

Objective – Measurement of the incidence of health financing contributions across socio-economic groups has proven valuable in informing health care financing reforms. However, there is little evidence as to how to carry out financing incidence analysis (FIA) in lower income settings. We outline some of the challenges faced when carrying out a FIA in Ghana, Tanzania and South Africa and illustrate how innovative techniques were used to overcome data weaknesses in these settings.

Methodology – FIA was carried out for tax, insurance and out-of-pocket (OOP) payments. The primary data sources were Living Standards Measurement Surveys (LSMS) and household surveys conducted in each of the countries; tax authorities and insurance funds also provided information. Consumption expenditure and a composite index of socio-economic status (SES) were used to assess financing equity. Where possible conventional methods of FIA were applied. Numerous challenges were documented and solution strategies devised.

Results – LSMS are likely to underestimate financial contributions to health care by individuals. For tax incidence analysis, reported income tax payments from secondary sources were severely under-reported. Income tax payers and shareholders could not be reliably identified. The use of income or consumption expenditure to estimate income tax contributions was found to be a more reliable method of estimating income tax incidence. Assumptions regarding corporate tax incidence had a huge effect on the progressivity of corporate tax and on overall tax progressivity. LSMS consumption categories did not always coincide with tax categories for goods subject to excise tax (e.g. wine and spirits were combined, despite differing tax rates). Tobacco companies, alcohol distributors and advertising agencies were used to provide more detailed information on consumption patterns for goods subject to excise tax by income category. There was little guidance on how to allocate fuel levies associated with ‘public transport’ use. Hence, calculations of fuel tax on public transport were based on individual expenditure on public transport, the average cost per kilometre and average rates of fuel consumption for each form of transport. For insurance contributions, employees will not report on employer contributions unless specifically requested to and are frequently unsure of their contributions. Therefore, we collected information on total health insurance contributions from individual schemes and regulatory authorities. OOP payments are likely to be under-reported due to long recall periods; linking OOP expenditure and illness incidence questions – omitting preventive care; and focusing on the last service used when people may have used multiple services during an illness episode. To derive more robust estimates of financing incidence, we collected additional primary data on OOP expenditures together with insurance enrolment rates and associated payments. To link primary data to the LSMS, a composite index of SES was used in Ghana and Tanzania and non-durable expenditure was used in South Africa.

Policy implications – We show how data constraints can be overcome for FIA in lower income countries and provide recommendations for future studies.

Objective – The South African health system has long been characterised by extreme inequalities in the allocation of financial and human resources. Voluntary private health insurance, delivered through medical schemes, accounts for some 60% of total expenditure but serves only the 14.8% of the population with higher incomes. A plan was articulated in 1994 to move to a National Health Insurance system with risk-adjusted payments to competing health funds, income cross-subsidies and mandatory membership for all those in employment, leading over time to universal coverage. This chapter describes the core institutional mechanism envisaged for a National Health Insurance system, the Risk Equalisation Fund (REF). A key issue that has emerged is the appropriate sequencing of the reforms and the impact on workers of possible trajectories is considered.

Methodology – The design and functioning of the REF is described and the impact on competing health insurance funds is illustrated. Using a reference family earning at different income levels, the impact on workers of various trajectories of reform is demonstrated.

Findings – Risk equalization is a critical institutional component in moving towards a system of social or national health insurance in competitive markets, but the sequence of its implementation needs to be carefully considered. The adverse impact of risk equalization on low-income workers in the absence of income cross-subsidies and mandatory membership is considerable.

Implications for policy – The South African experience of risk equalization is of interest as it attempts to introduce more solidarity into a small but highly competitive private insurance market. The methodology for considering the impact of reforms provides policy-makers and politicians with a clearer understanding of the consequences of reform.

Objectives – Purchasing has been promoted as a key policy instrument to improve health system performance. Despite its widespread adoption, there is little empirical evidence on how it works, the challenges surrounding its implementation, its impact, and the preconditions for it to function effectively, particularly in low- and middle-income settings. The objective of this chapter is to analyze critically the extent to which purchasing could be, and has been used strategically in China and to identify modifications that are needed for purchasing to be effective in assuring that the government's new funding for health care will result in efficient and effective health services.

Methods – We present a conceptual framework for purchasing, which identifies three critical principal–agent relationships in purchasing. We draw on evidence from secondary data, results of other research studies, interviews, and the impact evaluation of a social experiment in rural China that explicitly used purchasing to improve quality and efficiency. This information is used to examine purchasing relationships in urban social health insurance (SHI), the rural medical insurance scheme, and purchasing of public health services.

Findings – To date, use of strategic purchasing is limited in China. Both the urban and the rural health insurance schemes act as passive third-party payers, failing to take advantage of the opportunities to strengthen incentives to improve quality and efficiency. This may be because as government agencies, the extent to which the Ministries of Health and Labor and Social Security can act independently from provider interests, or act in the best interest of the population, is unclear. Other important challenges include ensuring adequate representation of the population's views and preferences and making better use of the leverage provided by purchasing to create appropriate provider incentives, through better integration of financing and improved coordination among purchasers.

Implications for policy – In designing purchasing arrangements, attention needs to be paid to all three principal–agent relationships. Successful purchasing appears to require mechanisms to mobilize and represent community preferences and more strategic contracting with providers. More research is needed to strengthen the evidence on which purchasing arrangements work, which do not work, and under what conditions different purchasing configurations can work most effectively.

Objective – Nepal's Safe Delivery Incentive Programme (SDIP) was introduced nationwide in 2005 with the aim of encouraging greater use of professional care at childbirth. It provided cash to women giving birth in a public health facility and an incentive to the health provider for each delivery attended, either at home or in the facility. We aimed to assess the impact of the programme on neonatal mortality and health care seeking behaviour at childbirth in one district of Nepal.

Methods – Impacts were identified using an interrupted time series approach, applied to household data. We estimated a model linking the level of each outcome at a point in time to the start of the programme, demographic controls, a vector of time variables and community-level fixed effects.

Findings – The recipients of the cash transfer in the programme's first two years were disproportionately wealthier households, reflecting existing inequality in the use of government maternity services. In places with women's groups – where information about the policy was widely disseminated – the SDIP substantially increased skilled birth attendance, but failed to impact on either neonatal mortality or the caesarean section rate. In places with no women's groups, the SDIP had no impact on utilisation outcomes or neonatal mortality.

Implications for policy – The lack of any impact on neonatal mortality suggests that greater increases in utilisation or better quality of care are needed to improve health outcomes. The SDIP changed health care seeking behaviour only in those areas with women's groups highlighting the importance of effective communication of the policy to the wider public.

Objective – The first wave of experiences of exemptions policies suggested that poverty-based exemptions, using individual targeting, were not effective, for practical and political economic reasons. In response, many countries have changed their approach in recent years – while maintaining user fees as a necessary source of revenue for facilities, they have been switching to categorical targeting, offering exemptions based on high-priority services or population groups. This chapter aims to examine the impact and conditions for effectiveness of this recent health finance modality.

Methodology/approach – The chapter is based on a literature review and on data from two complex evaluations of national fee exemption policies for delivery care in West Africa (Ghana and Senegal). A conceptual framework for analysing the impact of exemption policies is developed and used. Although the analysis focuses on exemption for deliveries, the framework and findings are likely to be generalisable to other service- or population-based exemptions.

Findings – The chapter presents background information on the nature of delivery exemptions, the drivers for their use, their scale and common modalities in low-income countries. It then looks at evidence of their impact, on utilisation, quality of care and equity and investigates their cost-effectiveness. The final section presents lessons on implementation and implications for policy-makers, including the acceptability and sustainability of exemptions and how they compare to other possible mechanisms.

Implications for policy – The chapter concludes that funded service- or group-based exemptions offer a simple, potentially effective route to mitigating inequity and inefficiency in the health systems of low-income countries. However, there are a number of key constraints. One is the fungibility of resources at health facility level. The second is the difficulty of sustaining a separate funding stream over the medium to long term. The third is the arbitrary basis for selecting high-priority services for exemption. The chapter therefore concludes that this financing mode is unstable and is likely to be transitional.

Objective – The aim of the paper is to bring evidence and lessons from two low- and middle-income countries (LMIs) of the former USSR into the global debate on health financing in poor countries. In particular, we analyze the introduction of social health insurance (SHI) in Kyrgyzstan and Moldova. To some extent, the intent of SHI introduction in these countries was similar to that in LMIs elsewhere: increase prepaid revenues for health and incorporate the entire population into the new system. But the approach taken to universality was different. In particular, the SHI fund in each country was used as the key instrument in a comprehensive reform of the health financing system, with the new revenues from payroll taxation used in an explicitly complementary manner to general budget revenues. From a functional perspective, the reforms in these countries involved not only the introduction of a new source of funds, but also the centralization of pooling, a shift from input- to output-based provider payment methods, specification of a benefit package, and greater autonomy for public sector health care providers. Hence, their reforms were not simply the introduction of an SHI scheme, but rather the use of an SHI fund as an instrument to transform the entire system of health financing.

Methodology/approach – The study uses administrative and household data to demonstrate the impact of the reforms on regional inequality and household financial burden.

Findings – The approach used in these two countries led to improved equity in the geographic distribution of government health spending, improved financial protection, and reduced informal payments.

Implications for policy – The comprehensive approach taken to reform in these two countries, and particularly the redirection of general budget revenues to the new SHI funds, explain much of the success that was achieved. This experience offers potentially useful lessons for LMIs elsewhere in the world, and for shifting the global debate away from what we see as a false dichotomy between SHI and general revenue-funded systems. By demonstrating that sources are not systems, these cases illustrate how, in particular by careful design of pooling and coverage arrangements, the introduction of SHI in an LMI context can avoid the fragmentation problem often associated with this reform instrument.

Objective – Tanzania, Mexico, and the United States are at vastly different points on the economic development scale. Yet, their health systems can be classified as “developing”: they do not live up to their potential, considering the resources available to them. The three, representing many others, share a common structural deficiency: a segregated health care system that cannot achieve its basic goals, the optimal health of its people, and their possible satisfaction with the system. Segregation follows and signifies first and foremost the lack of financial integration in the system that prevents it from serving its goals through the objectives of equity, cost containment and sustainability, efficient production of care and health, and choice.

Method – The chapter contrasts the nature of the developing health care system with the common goals, objectives, and principles of the Emerging Paradigm (EP) in developed, integrated – yet decentralized –systems. In this context, the developing health care system is defined by its structural deficiencies, and reform proposals are outlined.

Findings – In spite of the vast differences amongst the three countries, their health care systems share strikingly similar features. At least 50% of their total funding sources are private. The systems comprise exclusive vertically integrated, yet segregated, “silos” that handle all systemic functions. These reflect and promote wide variations in health insurance coverage and levels of benefits – substantial portions of their populations are without adequate coverage altogether; a considerable lack of income protection from medical spending; an inability to formalize and follow a coherent health policy; a lack of financial discipline that threatens sustainability and overall efficiency; inefficient production of care and health; and an dissatisfied population. These features are often promoted by the state, using tax money, and donors.

Policy implications – The situation can be rectified by (a) “centralizing” – at any level of development and resource availability – health system finance around a set package of core medical benefits that is made available to the entire population and (b) “decentralizing” consumption and provision of care. The first serves equity and cost containment and sustainability. The second supports efficiency and client satisfaction.

Originality/value of chapter – The chapter views commonly discussed problems of the health care system – a lack of insurance coverage and income protection – as symptoms of a large problem: health system segregation.

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Advances in Health Economics and Health Services Research
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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