Assessing catastrophic and impoverishing effects of health care payments in Uganda

Journal Article


Journal Title

BMC Health Services Research

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

BioMed Central


University of Cape Town

Background: Direct out-of-pocket payments for health care are recognised as limiting access to health care services and also endangering the welfare of households. In Uganda, such payments comprise a large portion of total health financing. This study assesses the catastrophic and impoverishing impact of paying for health care out-of-pocket in Uganda. Methods: Using data from the Uganda National Household Surveys 2009/10, the catastrophic impact of out-of-pocket health care payments is defined using thresholds that vary with household income. The impoverishing effect of out-of-pocket health care payments is assessed using the Ugandan national poverty line and the World Bank poverty line ($1.25/day). Results: A high level and intensity of both financial catastrophe and impoverishment due to out-of-pocket payments are recorded. Using an initial threshold of 10% of household income, about 23% of Ugandan households face financial ruin. Based on both the $1.25/day and the Ugandan poverty lines, about 4% of the population are further impoverished by such payments. This represents a relative increase in poverty head count of 17.1% and 18.1% respectively. Conclusion: The absence of financial protection in Uganda’s health system calls for concerted action. Currently, out-of-pocket payments account for a large share of total health financing and there is no pooled prepayment system available. There is therefore a need to move towards mandatory prepayment. In this way, people could access the needed health services without any associated financial consequence.