What level of domestic government health expenditure should we aspire to for universal health coverage?

This paper aims to explore potential targets for government spending on health to progress towards universal health coverage

Abstract

Global discussions on universal health coverage (UHC) have focussed attention on the need for increased government funding for health care in many low- and middle-income countries.

The objective of this paper is to explore potential targets for government spending on health to progress towards UHC. An explicit target for government expenditure on health care relative to gross domestic product (GDP) is a potentially powerful tool for holding governments to account in progressing to UHC, particularly in the context of UHC’s inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals. It is likely to be more influential than the Abuja target, which requires decreases in budget allocations to other sectors and is opposed by finance ministries for undermining their autonomy in making sectoral budget allocation decisions. International Monetary Fund and World Health Organisation data sets were used to analyse the relationship between government health expenditure and proxy indicators for the UHC goals of financial protection and access to quality health care, and triangulated with available country case studies estimating the resource requirements for a universal health system. Our analyses point towards a target of government spending on health of at least 5% of GDP for progressing towards UHC. This can be supplemented by a per capita target of $86 to promote universal access to primary care services in low-income countries.

This research is supported by the Department for International Development’s RESYST (Resilient and Responsive Health Systems) programme which is led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Citation

Mcintyre, D., Meheus, F., & Røttingen, J. (2017). What level of domestic government health expenditure should we aspire to for universal health coverage? Health Economics, Policy and Law, 12(2), 125-137. doi:10.1017/S1744133116000414

What level of domestic government health expenditure should we aspire to for universal health coverage?

Published 23 March 2017