Publication: Progress on Impoverishing Health Spending in 122 Countries: A Retrospective Observational Study
The goal of universal health coverage (UHC) requires that families who get needed health care do not suffer financial hardship as a result. This can be measured by instances of impoverishment, when a household's consumption including out-of-pocket spending on health is more than the poverty line but its consumption, excluding out-of-pocket spending, is less than the poverty line. This links UHC directly to the policy goal of reducing poverty. We find impoverishment due to out-of-pocket spending even in countries where the entire population is officially covered by a health insurance scheme or by national or subnational health services. Incidence is negatively correlated with the share of total health spending channelled through social security funds and other government agencies. Out-of-pocket spending on health can add to the poverty head count and the depth of poverty by diverting household spending from non-health budget items. The scale of such impoverishment varies between countries and depends on the poverty line but might in some low-income countries account for as much as four percentage points of the poverty head count. Increasing the share of total health expenditure that is prepaid, especially through taxes and mandatory contributions, can help reduce impoverishment.