There is increasing advocacy for community-based health insurance (CBHI) schemes as part of a broader solution to health care financing problems in low-income countries, but to date there is very limited understanding of how CBHI schemes interact with other elements of a health care financing system. This paper aims to set out a preliminary conceptual framework for understanding such interactions, and highlights the kind of research questions raised by such a framework. A basic conceptual map of a CBHI scheme is developed, and extensions added to this map that incorporate 1) effects upon non-members of schemes, 2) government subsidies to providers, 3) government subsidies to schemes, and 4) issues raised by the existence of multiple risk-pooling schemes in a particular context. The utility of a broader approach to analyzing/assessing CBHI schemes is illustrated through examination of two policy issues, namely 1) coordination of CBHI risk pools and government risk pools, and 2) equity implications of CBHI schemes and the role of government subsidies in such schemes. It is concluded that there is a strong need for empirical work to explore how CBHI schemes and the broader health care financing system interact, and that even if individual schemes achieve their own objectives in terms of equity, efficiency etc.;: this does not necessarily imply that such objectives will be achieved at the system level.
Health Policy and Planning (2004) 19 (3) 147-158 [doi:10.1093/heapol/czh018]