- Why are the poor less covered in Ghana’s national health insurance?
- A critical analysis of policy and practice
- International Journal for Equity in Health
- Article number
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Background: The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was introduced in Ghana to ensure equity in healthcare access. Presently, some low and middle income countries including Ghana are using social health insurance schemes to reduce inequity in access to healthcare. In Ghana, the NHIS was introduced to address the problem of inequity in healthcare access in a period that was characterised by user-fee regimes. The premium is heavily subsidised and exemption provided for the poorest, yet studies reveal that they are least enrolled in the scheme. We used a multi-level perspective as conceptual and methodological tool to examine why the NHIS is not reaching the poor as envisaged.
Methods:Fifteen communities in the Central and Eastern Regions of Ghana were surveyed after implementing a 20 months intervention programme aimed at ensuring that community members have adequate knowledge of the NHIS’ principles and benefits and improve enrolment and retention rates. Observation and in-depth interviews were used to gather information about the effects of the intervention in seven selected communities, health facilities and District Health Insurance Schemes in the Central Region.
Results: The results showed a distinct rise in the NHIS’ enrolment among the general population but the poor were less covered. Of the 6790 individuals covered in the survey, less than half (40.3 %) of the population were currently insured in the NHIS and 22.4 % were previously insured. The poorest had the lowest enrolment rate: poorest 17.6 %, poor 31.3 %, rich 46.4 % and richest 44.4 % (p = 0.000). Previous enrolment rates were: poorest (15.4 %) and richest (23.8 %), (p = 0.000). Ironically, the poor’s low enrolment was widely attributed to their poverty. The underlying structural cause, however, was policy makers’ and implementers’ lack of commitment to pursue NHIS’ equity goal.
Conclusion: Inequity in healthcare access persists because of the social and institutional environment in which the NHIS operates. There is a need to effectively engage stakeholders to develop interventions to ensure that the poor are included in the NHIS.
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