Assessing the impoverishment effects of out-of-pocket healthcare payments prior to the uptake of the national health insurance scheme in Ghana

James Akazili, John Ele-Ojo Ataguba, Edmund Wedam Kanmiki, John Gyapong, Osman Sankoh, Abraham Oduro, Di McIntyre
BMC International Health and Human Rights 2017 May 22, 17 (1): 13

BACKGROUND: There is a global concern regarding how households could be protected from relatively large healthcare payments which are a major limitation to accessing healthcare. Such payments also endanger the welfare of households with the potential of moving households into extreme impoverishment. This paper examines the impoverishing effects of out-of-pocket (OOP) healthcare payments in Ghana prior to the introduction of Ghana's national health insurance scheme.

METHODS: Data come from the Ghana Living Standard Survey 5 (2005/2006). Two poverty lines ($1.25 and $2.50 per capita per day at the 2005 purchasing power parity) are used in assessing the impoverishing effects of OOP healthcare payments. We computed the poverty headcount, poverty gap, normalized poverty gap and normalized mean poverty gap indices using both poverty lines. We examine these indicators at a national level and disaggregated by urban/rural locations, across the three geographical zones, and across the ten administrative regions in Ghana. Also the Pen's parade of "dwarfs and a few giants" is used to illustrate the decreasing welfare effects of OOP healthcare payments in Ghana.

RESULTS: There was a high incidence and intensity of impoverishment due to OOP healthcare payments in Ghana. These payments contributed to a relative increase in poverty headcount by 9.4 and 3.8% using the $1.25/day and $2.5/day poverty lines, respectively. The relative poverty gap index was estimated at 42.7 and 10.5% respectively for the lower and upper poverty lines. Relative normalized mean poverty gap was estimated at 30.5 and 6.4%, respectively, for the lower and upper poverty lines. The percentage increase in poverty associated with OOP healthcare payments in Ghana is highest among households in the middle zone with an absolute increase estimated at 2.3% compared to the coastal and northern zones.

CONCLUSION: It is clear from the findings that without financial risk protection, households can be pushed into poverty due to OOP healthcare payments. Even relatively richer households are impoverished by OOP healthcare payments. This paper presents baseline indicators for evaluating the impact of Ghana's national health insurance scheme on impoverishment due to OOP healthcare payments.

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