Moving to universal coverage? Trends in the burden of out-of-pocket payments for health care across social groups in India, 1999-2000 to 2011-12

Anup Karan, Sakthivel Selvaraj, Ajay Mahal
PloS One 2014, 9 (8): e105162
In the background of ongoing health sector reforms in India, the paper investigates the magnitude and trends in out-of-pocket and catastrophic payments for key population sub-groups. Data from three rounds of nationally representative consumer expenditure surveys (1999-2000, 2004-05 and 2011-12) were pooled to assess changes over time in a range of out-of-pocket -related outcome indicators for the poorest 20% households, scheduled caste and tribe households and Muslims households relative to their better-off/majority religion counterparts. Our results suggest that the poorest 20% of households experienced a decline in the proportion reporting any OOP for inpatient care relative to the top 20% and Muslim households saw an increase in the proportion reporting any inpatient OOP relative to non-Muslim households during 2000-2012. The change in the proportion of Muslim households or SC/ST households reporting any OOP for outpatient care was similar to that for their respective more advantaged counterparts; but the poorest 20% of households experienced a faster increase in the proportion reporting any OOP for outpatient care than their top 20% counterparts. SC/ST, Muslim and the poorest 20% of households experienced as faster increase in the share of outpatient OOP in total household spending relative to their advantaged counterparts. We conclude that the financial burden of out of pocket spending increased faster among the disadvantaged groups relative to their more advantaged counterparts. Although the poorest 20% saw a relative decline in OOP spending on inpatient care as a share of household spending, this is likely the result of foregoing inpatient care, than of accessing benefits from the recent expansion of cashless publicly financed insurance schemes for inpatient care. Our results highlight the need to explore the reasons underlying the lack of effectiveness of existing public health financing programs and public sector health services in reaching less-advantaged castes and religious minorities.

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