Universal Health Coverage: Why is it Important?

January 8th, 2019 - 0 Comments

Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.
Dr. Martin Luther King

Health is a fundamental human right. If you believe everyone should be able to access health care service irrespective of their financial setup, yes you believe in Universal Health Coverage!

Universal Health Coverage (UHC) implies that all individuals and communities can utilize the promotive, preventive, therapeutic, rehabilitative, and palliative medical care they require, of adequate quality to be effective, while additionally guaranteeing that the utilization of these medical services will not expose the person to financial hardship.

According to the WHO, at least half of the world’s people lack full coverage for essential health services. More than 800 million people spend over 10 % of their family budget on health services and close to 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty because of healthcare expenses. That is why countries all over the world are investing in UHC by enabling communities to make decisions about their own health like breast feeding, healthy diet, by reaching most remote villages with lifesaving services like vaccines, by building networks of affordable primary care clinics to provide treatments locally for everyday health needs, and by providing most sophisticated services at hospitals for life’s ups and down. The thing is UHC not only improves health and increases life expectancy but also reduces poverty, creates jobs, drives inclusive economic growth, improves gender equality, and protects countries against epidemics. Every nation can increase its range of health services, expand its health workforce, improve its infrastructure, ensure essential medicines are available, and protect the people from the cost of paying for care out of their own pocket with the right investments.

The concept of universal health coverage was raised by international organizations such as the World Bank (WB) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

UHC has three main objectives:

– Health service equity: access of medical service to all who need it without any barriers

– Health service quality: the medical services should be good enough to improve the quality of life of the patient

– Protection from financial burden: the cost of the medical services provided to the patient will not be a hardship

Advantages of UHC:

  1. Health benefits

A study conducted in 153 countries indicates that the access to medical services has increased with broader health coverage. The broader health coverage also improves the population health with medical services access to poor people. These results are derived from a study conducted in select countries having different income levels by scaling up medical service coverage with financial risk protection.

There are also many examples of countries which have significant improvements in population health as a result of initiatives designed to expand or improve coverage, though it is important to understand that in each case the countries continue to battle coverage issues of one kind or another.

  1. Economic benefits

The key aspect of health system performance is how the health services are paid for. It also has an important relationship with the broader economy. Direct or out of pocket payment is the most common method of payment for medicine and health services. Most poor countries rely upon direct payment for medical services. An estimated 150 million people suffer financial problems in health payments and because of this annually 100 million people are pushed below the poverty line simply because they want to access the medical services and have to pay it themselves. One ongoing examination demonstrated that in Gujarat, 88% families falling beneath the neediness line credited their situation to medicinal services costs. This problem is not limited only to developing countries. Recent evidences show that in the US the reason for half of the personal bankruptcies is higher medical care expenses.

People can be protected from high out- of-pocket health expenditures through the extension of pre-paid pooled funds which have the potential to reduce or eliminate the financial risk associated with sudden, unpredictable health costs. Families will gain advantage from such security in money related terms. They will have less need to put something aside for future wellbeing, which will regularly enable them to spend more on different things, boosting trade stream towards a more extensive economy. Worries about healthcare bills have been the main cause of excessively high saving rates in some countries, notable among which is China, where it has had a negative impact on domestic utilization and maybe even the world economy.

Various nations have seen unique monetary advantages for family units coming about because of the presentation of UHC frameworks, and the decrease of out-of-pocket consumptions

  1. Political benefits

A critical component to achieving Universal Health Coverage is strong, resilient health systems, specifically in low-income and fragile settings. To strengthen a health system, the focus should be on the six building blocks that make a health system work:

– Service delivery

– Health workforce

– Health information systems

– Access to essential medicines

– Healthcare financing

– Leadership and governance

Maternal and child mortality is lowered by focusing on the six building blocks. It will ensure that quality services are accessible to everyone, regardless of who they are and where they live. Universal health coverage must be made a political priority so that everyone can access quality healthcare without facing financial hardships.

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