31 January 2013

Africa-Asia Forum On Role of Health Insurance in Universal Coverage

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Representatives from Ministries of Finance and Health, national health insurance authorities and development partners, as well as experts and practitioners from Asia and Africa are to meet in South Africa next month at a forum on the role of health insurance in achieving universal health coverage and social health protection.

The forum, entitled "Achieving Universal Coverage Through Health Financing Reform", is organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB), in collaboration with the German International Cooperation (GTZ), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and in close consultation with the Government of the Republic of South Africa.

The forum, which takes place from March 11-14, 2013 in Centurion, South Africa, is expected to attract an estimated 60 representatives from 16 African and four Asian countries. It aims to facilitate knowledge exchange between African and Asian countries on building coherent and sustainable health financing systems (prepayment, pooling and strategic spending) that are geared to achieving universal health coverage.

Focusing on the Southern African region, the forum will explore in particular the role of extending coverage of pooled financing mechanisms (often under the label of "health insurance"), for moving closer to universal health coverage. It will discuss key aspects, the potential as well as the challenges and limitations of different approaches to revenue contribution, pooling, and purchasing in closing healthcare coverage gaps.

At the July 2012 Conference on Value for Money Sustainability and Accountability, African Ministers of Finance and Health acknowledged that millions of Africans suffer severe economic consequences due to the need to pay for out-of-pocket healthcare. The financial strains on people due to out-of-pocket spending aggravate inequities and impede sustainable social and economic development. Furthermore, millions more do not even seek the care they need due to the high costs of accessing and using it.

The financial risks that out-of-pocket expenditure presents can be diminished through prepayment, pooling and strategic spending of resources. A number of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are currently reforming their national health financing systems with a view to achieving universal health coverage and social protection for all.

The main outcome of the exchange will be a set of recommendations for country health financing reform as well as the identification of where development partners can support southern African countries in their efforts towards universal health coverage.

More South-South exchanges such as this one are expected as countries continue to collaborate and share experiences.

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