Objectives: We assessed the contribution of health insurance and a functioning public sector to access to care and medicines and household economic burden.
Methods: We used descriptive and logistic regression analyses on 2002/3 World Health Survey data in 70 countries.
Results: Across countries, 286,803 households and 276,362 respondents contributed data. More than 90% of households had access to acute care. However, less than half of respondents with a chronic condition reported access. In 51 low and middle income countries (LMIC), health care expenditures accounted for 13-32% of total 4-week household expenditures. One in four poor households in low income countries incurred potentially catastrophic health care expenses and more than 40% used savings, borrowed money, or sold assets to pay for care. Between 41% and 56% of households in LMIC spent 100% of health care expenditures on medicines. Health insurance and a functioning public sector were both associated with better access to care and lower risk of economic burden.
Conclusion: To improve access, policy makers should improve public sector provision of care, increase health insurance coverage, and expand medicines benefit policies in health insurance systems.
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