Effects of social health insurance on access and utilization of obstetric health services: results from HIV+ pregnant women in Kenya

BMC Public Health. 2020 Jan 20;20(1):87. doi: 10.1186/s12889-020-8186-y.


Background: Reducing maternal morbidity and mortality remains a top global health agenda especially in high HIV/AIDS endemic locations where there is increased likelihood of mother to child transmission (MTCT) of HIV. Social health insurance (SHI) has emerged as a viable option to improve population access to health services, while improving outcomes for disenfranchised populations, particularly HIV+ women. However, the effect of SHI on healthcare access for HIV+ persons in limited resource settings is yet to undergo rigorous empirical evaluation. This study analyzes the effect of health insurance on obstetric healthcare access including institutional delivery and skilled birth attendants for HIV+ pregnant women in Kenya.

Methods: We analyzed cross-sectional data from HIV+ pregnant women (ages 15-49 years) who had a delivery (full term, preterm, miscarriage) between 2008 and 2013 with their insurance enrollment status available in the electronic medical records database of a HIV healthcare system in Kenya. We estimated linear and logistic regression models and implemented matching and inverse probability weighting (IPW) to improve balance on observable individual characteristics. Additionally, we estimated heterogeneous effects stratified by HIV disease severity (CD4 < 350 as "Severe HIV disease", and CD4 > 350 otherwise).

Findings: Health Insurance enrollment is associated with improved obstetric health services utilization among HIV+ pregnant women in Kenya. Specifically, HIV+ pregnant women covered by NHIF have greater access to institutional delivery (12.5-percentage points difference) and skilled birth attendants (19-percentage points difference) compared to uninsured. Notably, the effect of NHIF on obstetric health service use is much greater for those who are sicker (CD4 < 350) - 20 percentage points difference.

Conclusion: This study confirms conceptual and practical considerations around health insurance and healthcare access for HIV+ persons. Further, it helps to inform relevant policy development for health insurance and HIV financing and delivery in Kenya and in similar countries in sub-Saharan Africa in the universal health coverage (UHC) era.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS; Health insurance; Healthcare utilization; Institutional delivery; Skilled birth attendants; Universal health coverage.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delivery, Obstetric / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Social Security*
  • Young Adult