The Ten Key Facts about Universal Health Coverage

Posted: June 29, 2012 in HEALTH AND HEALTH POLICIES
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Universal (UHC) requires that all people get the health services they need without the risk of severe financial problems linked to paying for them. At the same time, the health services people receive need to be of good quality. There are a list of 10 key facts about Universal Health Coverage according to the Wold Health Organization, and they are listed below:

1. Universal coverage ensures that all people can use health services without financial hardship

Member States of the Wold Health Organization have set themselves the target of developing their health financing systems to ensure universal coverage. Universal coverage means that all people can use health services, while being protected against financial hardship associated with paying for them.

2. All people should have access to the health services they need

There are wide variations in coverage of essential health services both between and within countries. For example, in some countries less than 20% of births are attended by a skilled health worker, compared with almost 100% in other countries.

3. Out-of-pocket payments push over a 100 million people into poverty every year

Every year 100 million people are pushed into poverty because they have to pay for health services directly. To reduce these financial risks, countries such as Thailand are moving away from a system funded largely by out-of-pocket payments to one funded by prepaid funds – a mix of taxes and insurance contributions.

4. The most effective way to provide universal coverage is to share the costs across the population

In this way, people make compulsory contributions – through taxation and/or insurance – to a pool of funds. They can then draw on these funds in case of illness, regardless of how much they have contributed. In Kyrgyzstan, for example, the pooling of general revenues with insurance payroll taxes has helped improve access to health care.

5. All countries are continually seeking more funds for health care

Even richer countries struggle to keep up with the rising costs of technological advances and the increasing health demands of their populations. Low-income countries often have insufficient resources to ensure access to even a very basic set of health services.

6. In 2010, 79 countries devoted less than 10% of government expenditure to health

Governments need to give higher priority to health in their budgets as domestic financial support is crucial for sustaining universal coverage in the long term. If African Union countries increased government expenditure on health to 15% as promised in the Abuja Declaration in 2001, they could together raise an extra US$ 29 billion per year for health.

7. Countries are finding innovative ways to raise revenue for health

All countries can improve their tax collection mechanisms. They can also consider introducing levies or taxes earmarked for health, such as “sin” taxes on the sale of tobacco and alcohol. As an example, Ghana funded its national health insurance partly by increasing value-added tax by 2.5%.

8. Only eight of the world’s 49 poorest countries have any chance of financing a set of basic services with their own domestic resources by 2015

Increased external support is vital. Global solidarity is needed to support the poorest countries. If high-income countries were to immediately keep their international commitments for official development assistance, the estimated shortfall in funds to reach the health-related Millennium Development Goals would be virtually eliminated.

9. Globally, 20–40% of resources spent on health are wasted

Common causes of inefficiencies include demotivated health workers, duplication of services, and inappropriate or overuse of medicines and technologies. In 2008 for example, France saved almost US$2 billion by use of generic medicines wherever possible.

10. All countries can do more in order to move towards universal coverage

The Wold Health Organization has developed an action plan to support countries in developing good health financing strategies. Engaging all stakeholders and improving the health system as a whole are also essential to move towards universal coverage.


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