User charges for health care: a review of recent experience.
This paper reviews recent experiences with increases in user charges and their effect on the utilization of health care. Evidence from several countries of differences in utilization between rich and poor is presented, and recent accounts of sharp, and often sustained, drops in utilization following fee increases, are presented and discussed. Fee income, appropriately used, represents a small but significant additional resource for health care. Recent national experiences appear to have concentrated on achieving cost recovery objectives, rather than on improving service quality and health outcomes. Appraisal of financing changes must be linked to probable health outcomes. Successful large-scale experience in linking these two is in short supply. (+info)
User charges in government health facilities in Kenya: effect on attendance and revenue.
In this paper we study demand effects of user charges in a district health care system using cross-sectional data from household and facility surveys. The effects are examined in public as well as in private health facilities. We also look briefly at the impact of fees on revenue and service quality in government facilities. During the period of cost-sharing in public clinics, attendance dropped by about 50%. This drop prompted the government to suspend the fees for approximately 20 months. Over the 7 months after suspension of fees, attendance at government health centres increased by 41%. The suspension further caused a notable movement of patients from the private sector to government health facilities. The revenue generated by user fees covered 2.4% of the recurrent health budget. Some 40% of the facilities did not spend the fee revenue they collected, mainly due to cumbersome procedures of expenditure approvals. The paper concludes with lessons from Kenya's experience with user charges. (+info)
The fall and rise of cost sharing in Kenya: the impact of phased implementation.
The combined effects of increasing demand for health services and declining real public resources have recently led many governments in the developing world to explore various health financing alternatives. Faced with a significant decline during the 1980s in its real per capita expenditures, the Kenya Ministry of Health (MOH) introduced a new cost sharing programme in December 1989. The programme was part of a comprehensive health financing strategy which also included social insurance, efficiency measures, and private sector development. Early implementation problems led to the suspension in September 1990 of the outpatient registration fee, the major revenue source at the time. In 1991, the Ministry initiated a programme of management improvement and gradual re-introduction of an outpatient fee, but this time as a treatment fee. The new programme was carried out in phases, beginning at the national and provincial levels and proceeding to the local level. The impact of these changes was assessed with national revenue collection reports, quality of care surveys in 6 purposively selected indicator districts, and time series analysis of monthly utilization in these same districts. In contrast to the significant fall in revenue experienced over the period of the initial programme, the later management improvements and fee adjustments resulted in steady increases in revenue. As a percentage of total non-staff expenditures, fiscal year 1993-1994 revenue is estimated to have been 37% at provincial general hospitals, 20% at smaller hospitals, and 21% at health centres. Roughly one third of total revenue is derived from national insurance claims. Quality of care measures, though in some respects improved with cost sharing, were in general somewhat mixed and inconsistent. The 1989 outpatient registration fee led to an average reduction in utilization of 27% at provincial hospitals, 45% at district hospitals, and 33% at health centres. In contrast, phased introduction of the outpatient treatment fee beginning in 1992, combined with somewhat broader exemptions, was associated with much smaller decreases in outpatient utilization. It is suggested that implementing user fees in phases by level of health facility is important to gain patient acceptance, to develop the requisite management systems, and to orient ministry staff to the new systems. (+info)
The impact of charging for insecticide on the Gambian National Impregnated Bednet Programme.
During the second year of the Gambian National Impregnated Bednet Programme (NIBP) charges for insecticide ($0.50 per net) were introduced into the half of the primary health care villages in the country where insecticide have been provided free of charge the previous year. Free insecticide was provided in the remaining villages that had acted as controls during the previous year. In villages where insecticide was provided free, 77% of nets were treated with insecticide. In contrast, in villages where charges were made coverage was only 14%. During the first year of the NIBP, mortality in children was significantly lower in villages where insecticide was provided free than in the control villages. Introduction of a charge for insecticide into the first group of villages and the provision of free insecticide in the latter abolished this difference. The cash income of rural Gambians is very limited and payment of even $2-3 for insecticide treatment for all the bednets in a household represents a substantial outlay. Further education on the benefits of treatment of nets and/or the provision of cheaper insecticide will be required before the full benefits of this powerful new malaria control measure can be fully realised in the Gambia. (+info)
Changes in benefit payments and health insurance premiums among firms switching health insurance carriers.
Employer-purchased group health insurance is a major source of funding in the US healthcare system, accounting for approximately one third of each healthcare dollar spent. Surprisingly, little is known about employers' behavior in purchasing health insurance or the circumstances leading employers to switch health insurance carriers. We descriptively analyzed data for a cohort of 95 insured groups between 1985 and 1991 to determine the frequency with which employers switch health insurance carriers and the growth pattern in premiums and benefit payments before the switch was made. Thirty-seven percent of groups switched carriers during the study period, with at least five groups switching each year from 1987 through 1991. The groups that switched insurance carriers experienced higher average annual rates of growth in benefit payments than those that did not switch (18% versus 11%). Groups that switched did not have significantly higher observed premium growth rates than those that did not switch, suggesting that employers decided to switch insurers before absorbing an increase in premiums. However, some firms that switched experienced below average increases in both benefit payments and premiums, indicating that premiums and anticipated premium increases are not solely responsible for the decision to switch health insurance carriers. (+info)
The hidden cost of 'free' maternity care in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
We studied the cost and affordability of 'free' maternity services at government facilities in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to assess whether economic factors may contribute to low utilization. We conducted a questionnaire survey and in-depth interviews among 220 post-partum mothers and their husbands, selected from four government maternity facilities (three referral hospitals and one Mother and Child Health hospital) in Dhaka. Mothers with serious complications were excluded. Information was collected on the costs of maternity care, household income, the sources of finance used to cover the costs, and the family's willingness to pay for maternity services. The mean cost for normal delivery was 1275 taka (US$31.9) and for caesarean section 4703 taka (US$117.5). Average monthly household income was 4933 taka (US$123). Twenty-one per cent of families were spending 51-100% of monthly income, and 27% of families 2-8 times their monthly income for maternity care. Overall, 51% of the families (and 74% of those having a caesarean delivery) did not have enough money to pay; of these, 79% had to borrow from a money lender or relative. Surprisingly, 72% of the families said they were willing to pay a government-levied user charge, though this was less popular among low-income families (61%). 'Free' maternity care in Bangladesh involves considerable hidden costs which may be a major contributor to low utilization of maternity services, especially among low-income groups. To increase utilization of safer motherhood services, policy-makers might consider introducing fixed user charges with clear exemption guidelines, or greater subsidies for existing services, especially caesarean section. (+info)
Response to health insurance by previously uninsured rural children.
OBJECTIVE: To examine the healthcare utilization and costs of previously uninsured rural children. DATA SOURCES/STUDY SETTING: Four years of claims data from a school-based health insurance program located in the Mississippi Delta. All children who were not Medicaid-eligible or were uninsured, were eligible for limited benefits under the program. The 1987 National Medical Expenditure Survey (NMES) was used to compare utilization of services. STUDY DESIGN: The study represents a natural experiment in the provision of insurance benefits to a previously uninsured population. Premiums for the claims cost were set with little or no information on expected use of services. Claims from the insurer were used to form a panel data set. Mixed model logistic and linear regressions were estimated to determine the response to insurance for several categories of health services. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The use of services increased over time and approached the level of utilization in the NMES. Conditional medical expenditures also increased over time. Actuarial estimates of claims cost greatly exceeded actual claims cost. The provision of a limited medical, dental, and optical benefit package cost approximately $20-$24 per member per month in claims paid. CONCLUSIONS: An important uncertainty in providing health insurance to previously uninsured populations is whether a pent-up demand exists for health services. Evidence of a pent-up demand for medical services was not supported in this study of rural school-age children. States considering partnerships with private insurers to implement the State Children's Health Insurance Program could lower premium costs by assembling basic data on previously uninsured children. (+info)
Promoting physical activity in general practice: should prescribed exercise be free?
In the UK there are numerous schemes whereby general practitioners can prescribe exercise programmes, usually based in leisure centres. Of the factors that discourage adherence to such programmes in the USA, cost has proved important. We collected demographic and questionnaire data from 152 inner-London patients (108 women, 44 men) before they started an exercise programme on a National Health Service prescription, and analysed the results according to whether they dropped out of the programme (78%) or not. Use of logistic regression revealed only one previous barrier to exercise, 'not knowing about local exercise facilities', as a significant positive determinant of adherence (adjusted odds ratio 3.51, 95% confidence interval, 1.04 to 11.86). For 'lack of money' patients were more likely to drop out of the programme (adjusted odds ratio 0.25, 95% CI 0.07-0.85). The very low cost of participation in this scheme, did not encourage adherence, particularly by those who had cited 'lack of money' as a previous barrier. The case of making prescribed exercise free or even low-cost remains unproven. (+info)