A government that claims to provide universal health coverage (UHC) needs to establish that access to health services is available for the whole population for the full spectrum of services without risk of undue financial hardship. Embedded within the idea of UHC are two distinct notions. First, access to the full spectrum of health services needs to include access to preventive care through to palliative care and rehabilitative services. Second, access to services for a whole population means that everyone should be able to enjoy the benefits of the health system, regardless of individual economic, social, or geographic position.
Those in favour of UHC see health as a public good not simply an individual benefit, and they recognise that, as a consequence of this view, the implementation of UHC requires a level of regulation and a kind of investment that is inconsistent with an unconstrained free market. The challenge for government is in selecting the mix of regulatory and financing mechanisms for the chosen, universally available, health services. This also presupposes that the parcel of health services that will be available has been identified, and there are systems in place to monitor and evaluate the system.
It was around these issues that the International Symposium on Universal Health Coverage in Malaysia, convened by Global Public Health at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Monash University Sunway Campus on 3 – 4 October 2011 cohered. The symposium provided an opportunity for lively and robust discussions between the private health care sector, including private health care and insurance providers, government and academics. The proceedings of the symposium are expected to feed into the background papers for the Second Global Symposium on Health Systems Research to be held in Beijing, 31 October to 3 November 2012 and copies of presentations are accessible . The gathering also presented the opportunity for the Monash 2011 Global Health Oration on the topic, presented by Professor Timothy Evans .
This supplement presents a compilation of select papers from the symposium which attempt to examine the concept of UHC from a series of different perspectives.
1. Equity and vulnerability;
2. Insurance and financing;
3. Coverage and satisfaction; and
These perspectives necessarily overlap and the insights from one perspective help to inform the considerations from another perspective.