Strategies for sustainability and equity of prepayment health schemes in Uganda

E L Kyomugisha, E Buregyeya, E Ekirapa, J F Mugisha, W Bazeyo
African Health Sciences 2009, 9 Suppl 2: S59-65

BACKGROUND: Despite the long existence of community health insurance schemes (CHI) in Uganda, their numbers and coverage levels have remained small with limited accessibility by the poor.

OBJECTIVES: To examine issues of equity and sustainability in CHI schemes, which are prerequisites to health sector financing.

METHODS: We carried out a descriptive cross-sectional study employing qualitative techniques. Eight focus group discussions (FGDs) with CHI scheme members and seven FGDs with non-members were held. Twelve Key informant interviews (KIs) were held with scheme managers, officials from Ministry of Health and one health financing organisation. We reviewed relevant documents and records of schemes.

RESULTS: Respondents' perceptions of unfairness in schemes were: non-members were treated better in hospital than members; some members pay premiums continuously without falling sick and schemes refused to cover illnesses like diabetes and hypertension. Fairness was related with the very little payment for the services received, members paying less than non-members but both getting the same treatment and no patient discrimination based on gender, age or social status. Schemes are not sustainable because they operate on small budgets, have low enrolment and lack government support. Effect of abolition of user fees on scheme enrolment was minimal.

CONCLUSION: Government should ensure that quality of health care does not deteriorate in the context of increased utilisation after user fees removal, schemes need substantial support to build their sustainability and there is need for technical and policy considerations about whether or not CHI has a role to play in Ugandan health system.

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