Promoting universal financial protection: a case study of new management of community health insurance in Tanzania

Abstract

Background: The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), a compulsory formal sector scheme took over the management of the Community Health Fund (CHF), a voluntary informal sector scheme, in 2009. This study assesses the origins of the reform, its effect on management and reporting structures, financial flow adequacy, reform communication and acceptability to key stakeholders, and initial progress towards universal coverage.

Methods: The study relied on national data sources and an in-depth collective case study of a rural and an urban district to assess awareness and acceptability of the reform, and fund availability and use relative to need in a sample of facilities.

Results: The reform was driven by a national desire to expand coverage and increase access to services. Despite initial delays, the CHF has been embedded within the NHIF organisational structure, bringing more intensive and qualified supervision closer to the district. National CHF membership has more than doubled. However, awareness of the reform was limited below the district level due to the reform’s top-down nature. The reform was generally acceptable to key stakeholders, who expected that benefits between schemes would be harmonised.

The reform was unable to institute changes to the CHF design or district management structures because it has so far been unable to change CHF legislation which also limits facility capacity to use CHF revenue. Further, revenue generated is currently insufficient to offset treatment and administration costs, and the reform did not improve the revenue to cost ratio. Administrative costs are also likely to have increased as a result of the reform.

Conclusion: Informal sector schemes can benefit from merger with formal sector schemes through improved data systems, supervision, and management support. However, effects will be maximised if legal frameworks can be harmonised early on and a reduction in administrative costs is not guaranteed.

Citation

Borghi, J.; Maluka, S.; Kuwawenaruwa, A.; Makawia, S.; Tantau, J.; Mtei, G.; Ally, M.; Macha, J. Promoting universal financial protection: a case study of new management of community health insurance in Tanzania. Health Research Policy and Systems (2013) 11 (1) 21. [DOI: 10.1186/1478-4505-11-21]

Promoting universal financial protection: a case study of new management of community health insurance in Tanzania

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