Health care for the world's poorest

Is voluntary (private) health insurance an option?

About 80 percent of the world population currently lives in countries that are either developed or developing. The other 20 percent lives in countries that are stagnant or falling behind. As a result, by the 2015 target date for the Millennium Development Goals, about one billion people will still live in severe poverty. Some of these people will live in countries that are stuck in one or more development traps; others will live in poor, remote, and backward areas of countries experiencing economic growth, on average. While it will be difficult, if not impossible, to reduce income poverty under those circumstances, other aspects of poverty—particularly bad health and premature death—can be reduced.

This brief focuses on options for increasing the chances that the billion at the bottom of the global income distribution will have access to affordable health care. The discussion draws on some long-standing regularities in health economics and new developments in the design and implementation of low-cost health insurance for low-income people in developing countries.

It shows why private finance for health care will continue to play a major role, especially in poor countries, and argues that increased coverage of
voluntary, private health insurance can be a suitable way of securing high-quality health care for the poor.

van der Gaag, Jacques
Published date: 
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Series number: 
Special Edition
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