Background: Incorporating private healthcare providers into social health insurance schemes is an important means towards achieving universal health coverage in low and middle income countries. However, little research has been conducted about why private providers choose to participate in social health insurance systems in such contexts, or their experiences with these systems. We explored private providers' perceptions of and experiences with participation in two different social health insurance schemes in Sub-Saharan Africa-the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in Ghana and the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) in Kenya.
Methods: In-depth interviews were held with providers working at 79 facilities of varying sizes in three regions of Kenya (N = 52) and three regions of Ghana (N = 27). Most providers were members of a social franchise network. Interviews covered providers' reasons for (non) enrollment in the health insurance system, their experiences with the accreditation process, and benefits and challenges with the system. Interviews were coded in Atlas.ti using an open coding approach and analyzed thematically.
Results: Most providers in Ghana were NHIS-accredited and perceived accreditation to be essential to their businesses, despite challenges they encountered due to long delays in claims reimbursement. In Kenya, fewer than half of providers were NHIF-accredited and several said that their clientele were not NHIF enrolled. Understanding of how the NHIF functioned was generally low. The lengthy and cumbersome accreditation process also emerged as a major barrier to providers' participation in the NHIF in Kenya, but the NHIS accreditation process was not a major concern for providers in Ghana.
Conclusions: In expanding social health insurance, coordinated efforts are needed to increase coverage rates among underserved populations while also accrediting the private providers who serve those populations. Market pressure was a key force driving providers to gain and maintain accreditation in both countries. Developing mechanisms to engage private providers as stakeholders in social health insurance schemes is important to incentivizing their participation and addressing their concerns.