Toward mandatory health insurance in low-income countries? An analysis of claims data in Tanzania

Many low-income countries are in the process of scaling up health insurance with the goal of achieving universal coverage. However, little is known about the usage and financial sustainability of mandatory health insurance. This study analyzes 26 million claims submitted to the Tanzanian National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), which covers two million public servants for whom public insurance is mandatory, to understand insurance usage patterns, cost drivers, and financial sustainability. We find that in 2016, half of policyholders used a health service within a single year, with an average annual cost of 33 US$ per policyholder. About 10% of the population was responsible for 80% of the health costs, and women, middle-age and middle-income groups had the highest costs. Out of 7390 health centers, only five health centers are responsible for 30% of total costs. Estimating the expected health expenditures for the entire population based on the NHIF cost structure, we find that for a sustainable national scale-up, policy makers will have to decide between reducing the health benefit package or increasing revenues. We also show that the cost structure of a mandatory insurance scheme in a low-income country differs substantially from high-income settings. Replication studies for other countries are warranted.

The true costs of cesarean delivery for patients in rural Rwanda: Accounting for post-discharge expenses in estimated health expenditures

Introduction
While it is recognized that there are costs associated with postoperative patient follow-up, risk assessments of catastrophic health expenditures (CHEs) due to surgery in sub-Saharan Africa rarely include expenses after discharge. We describe patient-level costs for cesarean section (c-section) and follow-up care up to postoperative day (POD) 30 and evaluate the contribution of follow-up to CHEs in rural Rwanda.

Methods
We interviewed women who delivered via c-section at Kirehe District Hospital between September 2019 and February 2020. Expenditure details were captured on an adapted surgical indicator financial survey tool and extracted from the hospital billing system. CHE was defined as health expenditure of ≥ 10% of annual household expenditure. We report the cost of c-section up to 30 days after discharge, the rate of CHE among c-section patients stratified by in-hospital costs and post-discharge follow-up costs, and the main contributors to c-section follow-up costs. We performed a multivariate logistic regression using a backward stepwise process to determine independent predictors of CHE at POD30 at α ≤ 0.05.

Results
Of the 479 participants in this study, 90% were classified as impoverished before surgery and an additional 6.4% were impoverished by the c-section. The median out-of-pocket costs up to POD30 was US$122.16 (IQR: $102.94, $148.11); 63% of these expenditures were attributed to post-discharge expenses or lost opportunity costs (US$77.50; IQR: $67.70, $95.60). To afford c-section care, 64.4% borrowed money and 18.4% sold possessions. The CHE rate was 27% when only considering direct and indirect costs up to the time of discharge and 77% when including the reported expenses up to POD30. Transportation and lost household wages were the largest contributors to post-discharge costs. Further, CHE at POD30 was independently predicted by membership in community-based health insurance (aOR = 3.40, 95% CI: 1.21,9.60), being a farmer (aOR = 2.25, 95% CI:1.00,3.03), primary school education (aOR = 2.35, 95% CI:1.91,4.66), and small household sizes had 0.22 lower odds of experiencing CHE compared to large households (aOR = 0.78, 95% CI:0.66,0.91).

Conclusion
Costs associated with surgical follow-up are often neglected in financial risk calculations but contribute significantly to the risk of CHE in rural Rwanda. Insurance coverage for direct medical costs is insufficient to protect against CHE. Innovative follow-up solutions to reduce costs of patient transport and compensate for household lost wages need to be considered.

Two decades of Tanzanian health policy

Tanzania has undertaken important health sector reforms in the new millennium, and the most recent Health Sector Strategic Plan (2021–26) lays out ambitious targets to achieve universal health coverage. Yet, women in Tanzania continue to face significant barriers in accessing healthcare and the country is grappling with important gender-biased health challenges disadvantaging women. The aims of this paper are two-fold. First, we examine the evolution of Tanzania’s health policy over the past two decades (2000–21) from the perspective of enhancing financial protection for working-age women. Second, we explore policy options for genderresponsive health insurance expansion in the context of Tanzania. Methodologically, the paper draws on a scoping study of diverse literature and data and a review of evidence from other contexts with public health insurance schemes. We find that Tanzania has a fragmented health system that relies on several independent schemes introduced throughout the years, characterized by insufficient risk-pooling. Such a system provides insufficient financial protection for workingage women and female-headed households, which are financially less secure than dual-earner households. Although expanding health insurance coverage represents a viable corrective measure, future reforms must account for women’s lower financial contribution capacity to enable equitable access. Additionally, the policy design requires gender-mainstreamed investments in awarenessraising, service quality, and benefit packages

Factors Influencing Uptake and Utilization of Mutual Health Insurance in Cameroon: The case of Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province Health Assistance

Background: Mutual health insurance schemes are a tool to curb excessive out-of-pocket payments for healthcare services to the poor and vulnerable communities. However, the uptake and utilization of these insurance schemes are low. This study explores factors that influence the uptake and utilization of mutual health insurance schemes.

Methods: This was a descriptive qualitative case study conducted among 20 Adherents and seven staff of BEPHA Kumbo. Multiple data sources were used, including semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, and a review of documents. We used the content analysis method to analyze the data.

Results: While mutual health insurance schemes can increase access to healthcare and potentially protect households against impoverishment caused by out-of-pocket payments, they face multiple factors that hinder uptake and utilization. The findings revealed that trust and access to the insurer were classified as enablers. At the same time, annual contribution, adverse selection, and no national policy were threats influencing uptake and utilization of the schemes.

Conclusions: MHI schemes can expand access to healthcare and improve the quality of care for its members. However, the lack of national policy threatens uptake and utilization and, hence, sustainability of these schemes.

The True Costs of Cesarean Sections for Patients in Rural Rwanda: Accounting for Post-Discharge Expenses in Estimated Health Expenditures

Introduction: While it is recognized that there are costs associated with postoperative patient follow-up, risk assessments of catastrophic health expenditures (CHEs) due to surgery in sub-Saharan Africa rarely include expenses after discharge. We describe patient-level costs for cesarean section (c-section) and follow-up care up to postoperative day (POD) 30 and evaluate the contribution of follow-up to CHEs in rural Rwanda.

Methods: We interviewed women who delivered via c-section at Kirehe District Hospital between September 2019 and February 2020. Expenditure details were captured on an adapted surgical indicator financial survey tool and extracted from the hospital billing system. CHE was defined as health expenditure of ≥ 10% of annual household expenditure. We report the cost of c-section up to 30 days after discharge, the rate of CHE among c-section patients stratified by in-hospital costs and post-discharge follow-up costs, and the main contributors to c-section follow-up costs.

Results: Of the 479 participants in this study, 90% were classified as impoverished before surgery and an additional 6.4% were impoverished by the c-section. The median out-of-pocket costs up to POD30 was US$122.16 (IQR: $102.94, $148.11); 63% of these expenditures were attributed to post-discharge expenses or lost opportunity costs (US$77.50; IQR: $67.70, $95.60). To afford c-section care, 64.4% borrowed money and 18.4% sold possessions. The CHE rate was 27% when only considering direct and indirect costs up to the time of discharge and 77% when including the reported expenses up to POD30. Transportation and lost household wages were the largest contributors to post-discharge costs.

Conclusion: Costs associated with surgical follow-up are often neglected in financial risk calculations but contribute significantly to the risk of CHE in rural Rwanda. Insurance coverage for direct medical costs is insufficient to protect against CHE. Innovative follow-up solutions to reduce costs of patient transport and compensate for household lost wages need to be considered.

Factors associated with patient payments exceeding National Health Insurance fees and out-of-pocket payments in Lao PDR

Background
Attaining universal health coverage is a target in the Sustainable Development Goals. In Lao PDR, to achieve universal health coverage, the government is implementing a national insurance scheme, initially targeting the informal sector.

Objective
The purpose was to assess: i) the percentage of NHI patients who paid above the scheduled amount, based on individual billing payment; and ii) the factors related to overpayment.

Methods
Descriptive cross-sectional study based on a structured questionnaire administered at health facilities in face-to-face interviews with 1,850 patients in six provinces.

Results
All 1,850 participants worked in the informal sector. Of these, 78.8% of respondents (77.9% of in-patients; 79.5% of out-patients) made co-payments or were exempted from. Factors associated with in-patients paying above the scheduled fee were living in the province and district (OR = 2.8; 95%CI 1.2 to 6.3); not having documents with them (OR = 21.2; 95%CI 5.6 to 80.3); or not having documents (OR: 7.8; 95% CI 2.1 to 28.6). Significant factors associated with additional costs for out-patients were level of facility used at the provincial hospital (OR:1.4; 95% CI 1.1 to 1.9); older age (OR = 2.2; 95%CI 1.5 to 3.1); living in the province and district (OR = 2.3; 95%CI 1.5 to 3.7); living more than 5 km from the facility (OR = 1.4; 95%CI 1.1 to 1.9); buying medicine or supplies outside of the health facility (OR: 5.6; 95% CI 3.1 to 10.2); not bringing documents (OR:9.1; 95% CI 6.1 to 13.5), not having the right documents (OR: 8.9; 95% CI 5.4 to 14.8).

Conclusions
A number of patients paid above scheduled fee rates, which may deter people from utilising services when needing them. There is a need for increased understanding of the benefits of the national insurance scheme among patients and healthcare staff.