Objective: To measure costs and willingness-to-pay for delivery care services in 8 districts of Nepal. Method: Household costs were used to estimate total resource requirements to finance: (1) the current pattern of service use; (2) all women to deliver in a health facility; (3) skilled attendance at home deliveries with timely referral of complicated cases to a facility offering comprehensive obstetric services. Results: The average cost to a household of a home delivery ranged from 410 RS ($5.43) (with a friend or relative attending) to 879 RS ($11.63) (with a health worker). At a facility the average fee for a normal delivery was 678 RS ($8.97). When additional charges, opportunity and transport costs were added, the total amount paid exceeded 5300 RS ($70). For a caesarean section the total household cost was more than 11 400 RS ($150). Based on these figures, the cost of financing current practice is 45 RS ($0.60) per capita. A policy of universal institutional delivery would cost 238 RS ($3.15) per capita while a policy of skilled attendance at home with early referral of cases from remote areas would cost around 117 RS ($1.55) per capita. These are significant sums in the context of a health budget of about 400 RS ($5) per capita. Conclusions: The financial cost of developing a skilled attendance strategy in Nepal is substantial. The mechanisms to direct funding to women in need must to be improved, pricing needs to be more transparent, and payment exemptions in public facilities must be better financed if we are to overcome both supply and demand-side barriers to care seeking.
Tropical Medicine & International Health (2006) 11 (2) 228-237