A maternal health voucher scheme: what have we learned from the demand-side financing scheme in Bangladesh?

Shakil Ahmed, M Mahmud Khan
Health Policy and Planning 2011, 26 (1): 25-32
It is now more than 2 years since the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of Bangladesh implemented the Maternal Health Voucher Scheme, a specialized form of demand-side financing programme. To analyse the early lessons from the scheme, information was obtained through semi-structured interviews with stakeholders at the sub-district level. The analysis identified a number of factors affecting the efficiency and performance of the scheme in the program area: delay in the release of voucher funds, selection criteria used for enrolling pregnant women in the programme, incentives created by the reimbursement system, etc. One of the objectives of the scheme was to encourage market competition among health care providers, but it failed to increase market competitiveness in the area. The resources made available through the scheme did not attract any new providers into the market and public facilities remained the only eligible provider both before and after scheme implementation. However, incentives provided through the voucher system did motivate public providers to offer a higher level of services. The beneficiaries expressed their overall satisfaction with the scheme as well. Since the local facility was not technically ready to provide all types of maternal health care services, providing vouchers may not improve access to care for many pregnant women. To improve the performance of the demand-side strategy, it has become important to adopt some supply-side interventions. In poor developing countries, a demand-side strategy may not be very effective without significant expansion of the service delivery capacity of health facilities at the sub-district level.

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