Examining inequities in incidence of catastrophic health expenditures on different healthcare services and health facilities in Nigeria

Obinna Onwujekwe, Kara Hanson, Benjamin Uzochukwu
PloS One 2012, 7 (7): e40811

OBJECTIVE: There is limited evidence about levels of socio-economic and other differences in catastrophic health spending in Nigeria and in many sub-Saharan African countries. The study estimated the level of catastrophic healthcare expenditures for different healthcare services and facilities and their distribution across socioeconomic status (SES) groups.

METHODS: The study took place in four Local Government Areas in southeast Nigeria. Data were collected using interviewer-administered questionnaires administered to 4873 households. Catastrophic health expenditures (CHE) were measured using a threshold of 40% of monthly non-food expenditure. We examined both total monthly health expenditure and disaggregated expenditure by source and type of care.

RESULTS: The average total household health expenditure per month was 2354 Naira ($19.6). For outpatient services, average monthly expenditure was 1809 Naira ($15.1), whilst for inpatient services it was 610 Naira ($5.1). Higher health expenditures were incurred by urban residents and the better-off SES groups. Overall, 27% of households incurred CHE, higher for poorer socioeconomic groups and for rural residents. Only 1.0% of households had a member that was enrolled in a health insurance scheme.

CONCLUSION: The worse-off households (the poorest SES and rural dwellers) experienced the highest burden of health expenditure. There was almost a complete lack of financial risk protection. Health reform mechanisms are needed to ensure universal coverage with financial risk protection mechanisms.

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