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1.  Challenges of medicines management in the public and private sector under Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme – A qualitative study 
Background
Ghana established its National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in 2003 with the goal of ensuring more equitable financing of health care to improve access to health services. This qualitative study examines the challenges and consequences of medicines management policies and practices under the NHIS as perceived by public and private service providers.
Methods
This study was conducted in health facilities in the Eastern, Greater Accra and Volta regions of Ghana between July and August 2014. We interviewed 26 Key Informants (KIs) from a purposively selected sample of public and private sector providers (government and mission hospitals, private hospitals and private standalone pharmacies), pharmaceutical suppliers and NHIS district offices. Data was collected using semi-structured interview guides which covered facility accreditation, reimbursement practices, medicines selection, purchasing and pricing of medicines, and utilization of medicines. Codes for data analysis were developed based on the study questions and also in response to themes that emerged from the transcripts and notes.
Results
Most KIs agreed that the introduction of the NHIS has increased access to and utilization of medicines by removing cost barriers for patients; however, some pointed out the increased utilization could also be corollary to moral hazard. Common concerns across all facilities were the delays in receiving NHIS reimbursements, and low reimbursement rates for medicines which result in providers asking patients to pay supplementary fees. KIs reported important differences between private and public sectors including weak separation of prescribing and dispensing and limited use of drugs and therapeutic committees in the private sector, the disproportionate effects of unfavorable reimbursement prices for medicines, and inadequate participation of the private sector providers (especially pharmacies and licensed chemical sellers) in the NHIS.
Conclusions
Health providers generally perceive the NHIS to have had a largely positive impact on access to medicines. However, concerns remain about equity in access to medicines and the differences in quality of pharmaceutical care delivered by private and public providers. Routine monitoring of medicines use during the implementation of health insurance schemes is important to identify and address the potential consequences of medicines policies and practices under the scheme.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s40545-016-0055-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s40545-016-0055-9
PMCID: PMC4765108  PMID: 26913200
Hospital; Insurance; Licensed chemical seller; Medicines; Pharmacy; Policy; Private; Public
2.  Something old or something new? Social health insurance in Ghana 
Background
There is considerable interest at present in exploring the potential of social health insurance to increase access to and affordability of health care in Africa. A number of countries are currently experimenting with different approaches. Ghana's National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was passed into law in 2003 but fully implemented from late 2005. It has already reached impressive coverage levels. This article aims to provide a preliminary assessment of the NHIS to date. This can inform the development of the NHIS itself but also other innovations in the region.
Methods
This article is based on analysis of routine data, on secondary literature and on key informant interviews conducted by the authors with stakeholders at national, regional and district levels over the period of 2005 to 2009.
Results
In relation to its financing sources, the NHIS is heavily reliant on tax funding for 70–75% of its revenue. This has permitted quick expansion of coverage, partly through the inclusion of large exempted population groups. Card holders increased from 7% of the population in 2005 to 45% in 2008. However, only around a third of these are contributing to the scheme financially. This presents a sustainability problem, in that revenue is de-coupled from the growing membership. In addition, the NHIS offers a broad benefits package, with no co-payments and limited gate-keeping, and also faces cost escalation related to its new payment system and the growing utilisation of members. These features contributed to a growth in distressed schemes and failure to pay outstanding facility claims in 2008.
The NHIS has had a considerable impact on the health system as a whole, taking on a growing role in funding curative care. In 2009, it is expected to contribute 41% of the overall resource envelope. However there is evidence that this funding is not additional but has been switched from other funding channels. There are some equity concerns about this, as the new funding source (a VAT-based tax) may be more regressive. In addition, membership of the NHIS at present has a pro-rich bias, and a pro-urban bias in relation to renewals. Only a very small proportion is registered as indigent, and there is some evidence of 'squeezing out' of non-members from health care utilisation. Finally, considerable challenges remain in relation to strengthening the purchasing role of the NHIS, and also settling debates about its structure and accountability.
Conclusion
Some trade-offs will be necessary between the existing wide benefits package of the NHIS and the laudable desire to reach universal coverage. The overall resource envelope for health is likely to be stable rather than increasing over the medium-term. In the longer term, the investment costs in the NHIS will only be justified if it is able to increase the cost-effectiveness of purchasing and the responsiveness of the system as a whole.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-9-20
PMCID: PMC2739838  PMID: 19715583
3.  Players and processes behind the national health insurance scheme: a case study of Uganda 
Background
Uganda is the last East African country to adopt a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). To lessen the inequitable burden of healthcare spending, health financing reform has focused on the establishment of national health insurance. The objective of this research is to depict how stakeholders and their power and interests have shaped the process of agenda setting and policy formulation for Uganda’s proposed NHIS. The study provides a contextual analysis of the development of NHIS policy within the context of national policies and processes.
Methods
The methodology is a single case study of agenda setting and policy formulation related to the proposed NHIS in Uganda. It involves an analysis of the real-life context, the content of proposals, the process, and a retrospective stakeholder analysis in terms of policy development. Data collection comprised a literature review of published documents, technical reports, policy briefs, and memos obtained from Uganda’s Ministry of Health and other unpublished sources. Formal discussions were held with ministry staff involved in the design of the scheme and some members of the task force to obtain clarification, verify events, and gain additional information.
Results
The process of developing the NHIS has been an incremental one, characterised by small-scale, gradual changes and repeated adjustments through various stakeholder engagements during the three phases of development: from 1995 to 1999; 2000 to 2005; and 2006 to 2011. Despite political will in the government, progress with the NHIS has been slow, and it has yet to be implemented. Stakeholders, notably the private sector, played an important role in influencing the pace of the development process and the currently proposed design of the scheme.
Conclusions
This study underscores the importance of stakeholder analysis in major health reforms. Early use of stakeholder analysis combined with an ongoing review and revision of NHIS policy proposals during stakeholder discussions would be an effective strategy for avoiding potential pitfalls and obstacles in policy implementation. Given the private sector’s influence on negotiations over health insurance design in Uganda, this paper also reviews the experience of two countries with similar stakeholder dynamics.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-357
PMCID: PMC3849368  PMID: 24053551
Health insurance; Stakeholder analysis; Context analysis; Policy reform; Health financing; Case study; Uganda
4.  An exploration of moral hazard behaviors under the national health insurance scheme in Northern Ghana: a qualitative study 
Background
The government of Ghana introduced the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in 2003 through an Act of Parliament (Act 650) as a strategy to improve financial access to quality basic health care services. Although attendance at health facilities has increased since the introduction of the NHIS, there have been media reports of widespread abuse of the NHIS by scheme operators, service providers and insured persons. The aim of the study was to document behaviors and practices of service providers and clients of the NHIS in the Kassena-Nankana District (KND) of Ghana that constitute moral hazards (abuse of the scheme) and identify strategies to minimize such behaviors.
Methods
Qualitative methods through 14 Focused Group Discussions (FGDs) and 5 individual in-depth interviews were conducted between December 2009 and January 2010. Thematic analysis was performed with the aid of QSR NVivo 8 software.
Results
Analysis of FGDs and in-depth interviews showed that community members, health providers and NHIS officers are aware of various behaviors and practices that constitute abuse of the scheme. Behaviors such as frequent and ‘frivolous’ visits to health facilities, impersonation, feigning sickness to collect drugs for non-insured persons, over charging for services provided to clients, charging clients for services not provided and over prescription were identified. Suggestions on how to minimize abuse of the NHIS offered by respondents included: reduction of premiums and registration fees, premium payments by installment, improvement in the picture quality of the membership cards, critical examination and verification of membership cards at health facilities, some ceiling on the number of times one can seek health care within a specified time period, and general education to change behaviors that abuse the scheme.
Conclusion
Attention should be focused on addressing the identified moral hazard behaviors and pursue cost containment strategies to ensure the smooth operation of the scheme and enhance its sustainability.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12913-015-1133-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s12913-015-1133-4
PMCID: PMC4606991  PMID: 26472051
Health insurance; Moral hazard; Kassena-Nankana District; Ghana
5.  Does the operations of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in Ghana align with the goals of Primary Health Care? Perspectives of key stakeholders in northern Ghana 
Background
In 2005, the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) urged member states to aim at achieving affordable universal coverage and access to key promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health interventions for all their citizens on the basis of equity and solidarity. Since then, some African countries, including Ghana, have taken steps to introduce national health insurance reforms as one of the key strategies towards achieving universal health coverage (UHC). The aim of this study was to get a better understanding of how Ghana’s health insurance institutions interact with stakeholders and other health sector programmes in promoting primary health care (PHC). Specifically, the study identified the key areas of misalignment between the operations of the NHIS and that of PHC.
Methods
Using qualitative and survey methods, this study involved interviews with various stakeholders in six selected districts in the Upper East region of Ghana. The key stakeholders included the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), district coordinators of the National Health Insurance Schemes (NHIS), the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) who supervise the district hospitals, health centers/clinics and the Community-based Health and Planning Services (CHPS) compounds as well as other public and private PHC providers.
A stakeholders’ workshop was organized to validate the preliminary results which provided a platform for stakeholders to deliberate on the key areas of misalignment especially, and to elicit additional information, ideas and responses, comments and recommendations from participants for the achievement of the goals of UHC and PHC.
Results
The key areas of misalignments identified during this pilot study included: delays in reimbursements of claims for services provided by health care providers, which serves as a disincentive for service providers to support the NHIS, inadequate coordination among stakeholders in PHC delivery; and inadequate funding for PHC, particularly on preventive and promotive services. Other areas are: the bypassing of PHC facilities due to lack of basic services at the PHC level such as laboratory services, as well as proximity to the district hospitals; and finally the lack of clear understanding of the national policy on PHC.
Conclusion
This study suggests that despite the progress that has been made since the establishment of the NHIS in Ghana, there are still huge gaps that need urgent attention to ensure that the goals of UHC and PHC are met. The key areas of misalignment identified in this study, particularly on the delays in reimbursements need to be taken seriously. It is also important for more dialogue between the NHIA and service providers to address key concerns in the implementation of the NHIS which is key to achieving UHC.
doi:10.1186/s12914-016-0096-9
PMCID: PMC5006541  PMID: 27576456
Misalignment; Universal Health Coverage; National Health Insurance; Primary health care; Upper East region; Ghana
6.  Does the operations of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in Ghana align with the goals of Primary Health Care? Perspectives of key stakeholders in northern Ghana 
Background
In 2005, the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) urged member states to aim at achieving affordable universal coverage and access to key promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health interventions for all their citizens on the basis of equity and solidarity. Since then, some African countries, including Ghana, have taken steps to introduce national health insurance reforms as one of the key strategies towards achieving universal health coverage (UHC). The aim of this study was to get a better understanding of how Ghana’s health insurance institutions interact with stakeholders and other health sector programmes in promoting primary health care (PHC). Specifically, the study identified the key areas of misalignment between the operations of the NHIS and that of PHC.
Methods
Using qualitative and survey methods, this study involved interviews with various stakeholders in six selected districts in the Upper East region of Ghana. The key stakeholders included the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), district coordinators of the National Health Insurance Schemes (NHIS), the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) who supervise the district hospitals, health centers/clinics and the Community-based Health and Planning Services (CHPS) compounds as well as other public and private PHC providers.
A stakeholders’ workshop was organized to validate the preliminary results which provided a platform for stakeholders to deliberate on the key areas of misalignment especially, and to elicit additional information, ideas and responses, comments and recommendations from respondents for the achievement of the goals of UHC and PHC.
Results
The key areas of misalignments identified during this pilot study included: delays in reimbursements of claims for services provided by health care providers, which serves as a disincentive for service providers to support the NHIS; inadequate coordination among stakeholders in PHC delivery; and inadequate funding for PHC, particularly on preventive and promotive services. Other areas are: the bypassing of PHC facilities due to lack of basic services at the PHC level such as laboratory services, as well as proximity to the district hospitals; and finally the lack of clear understanding of the national policy on PHC.
Conclusion
This study suggests that despite the progress that has been made since the establishment of the NHIS in Ghana, there are still huge gaps that need urgent attention to ensure that the goals of UHC and PHC are met. The key areas of misalignment identified in this study, particularly on the delays in reimbursements need to be taken seriously. It is also important for more dialogue between the NHIA and service providers to address key concerns in the implementation of the NHIS which is key to achieving UHC.
doi:10.1186/s12914-016-0095-x
PMCID: PMC5011972  PMID: 27595842
Misalignment; Universal Health Coverage; National Health Insurance; Primary health care; Upper East region; Ghana
7.  Assessing equity in health care through the national health insurance schemes of Nigeria and Ghana: a review-based comparative analysis 
Background
Nigeria and Ghana have recently introduced a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) with the aim of moving towards universal health care using more equitable financing mechanisms. This study compares health and economic indicators, describes the structure of each country’s NHIS within the wider healthcare system, and analyses impacts on equity in financing and access to health care.
Methods
The World Bank and other sources were used to provide comparative health and economic data. Pubmed, Embase and EconLit were searched to locate studies providing descriptions of each NHIS and empirical evidence regarding equity in financing and access to health care. A diagrammatical representation of revenue-raising, pooling, purchasing and provision was produced in order to analyse the two countries’ systems.
Results
Over the period 2000–2010, Ghana maintained a marked advantage in life expectancy, infant mortality, under-5 year mortality, and has a lower burden of major diseases. Health care expenditure is about 5% of GDP in both countries but public expenditure in 2010 was 38% of total expenditure in Nigeria and 60% in Ghana. Financing and access are less equitable in Nigeria as, inter alia, private out-of-pocket expenditure has fallen from 80% to 66% of total spending in Ghana since the introduction of its NHIS but has remained at over 90% in Nigeria; NHIS membership in Nigeria and Ghana is approximately 3.5% and 65%, respectively; Nigeria offers a variable benefits package depending on membership category while Ghana has uniform benefits across all beneficiaries. Both countries exhibit improvements in equity but there is a pro-rich and pro-urban bias in membership.
Conclusions
Major health indicators are more favourable in Ghana and overall equity in financing and access are weaker in Nigeria. Nigeria is taking steps to expand NHIS membership and has potential to expand its public spending to achieve greater equity. However, heavy burdens of poverty, disease and remote settings make this a substantial challenge. Ghana’s relative success has to be tempered by the high number of exemptions through taxation and the threat of moral hazard. The results and methods are anticipated to be informative for policy makers and researchers in both countries and other developing countries more widely.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-9
PMCID: PMC3626627  PMID: 23339606
Healthcare systems; Health economics; Health care expenditure; Access; Equity; Social health insurance; National Health Insurance Scheme; NHIS; Sub-Saharan Africa; Nigeria; Ghana
8.  Does the National Health Insurance Scheme provide financial protection to households in Ghana? 
Background
Excessive healthcare payments can impede access to health services and also disrupt the welfare of households with no financial protection. Health insurance is expected to offer financial protection against health shocks. Ghana began the implementation of its National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in 2004. The NHIS is aimed at removing the financial barrier to healthcare by limiting direct out-of-pocket health expenditures (OOPHE). The study examines the effect of the NHIS on OOPHE and how it protects households against catastrophic health expenditures.
Methods
Data was obtained from a cross-sectional representative household survey involving 2,430 households from three districts across Ghana. All OOPHE associated with treatment seeking for reported illness in the household in the last 4 weeks preceding the survey were analysed and compared between insured and uninsured persons. The incidence and intensity of catastrophic health expenditures (CHE) among households were measured by the catastrophic health payment method. The relative effect of NHIS on the incidence of CHE in the household was estimated by multiple logistic regression analysis.
Results
About 36% of households reported at least one illness during the 4 weeks period. Insured patients had significantly lower direct OOPHE for out-patient and in-patient care compared to the uninsured. On financial protection, the incidence of CHE was lower among insured households (2.9%) compared to the partially insured (3.7%) and the uninsured (4.0%) at the 40% threshold. The incidence of CHE was however significantly lower among fully insured households (6.0%) which sought healthcare from NHIS accredited health facilities compared to the partially insured (10.1%) and the uninsured households (23.2%). The likelihood of a household incurring CHE was 4.2 times less likely for fully insured and 2.9 times less likely for partially insured households relative to being uninsured. The NHIS has however not completely eliminated OOPHE for the insured and their households.
Conclusion
The NHIS has significant effect in reducing OOPHE and offers financial protection against CHE for insured individuals and their households though they still made some out-of-pocket payments. Efforts should aim at eliminating OOPHE for the insured if the objective for establishing the NHIS is to be achieved.
doi:10.1186/s12913-015-0996-8
PMCID: PMC4537562  PMID: 26275412
9.  Refusal to enrol in Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme: is affordability the problem? 
Background
Access to health insurance is expected to have positive effect in improving access to healthcare and offer financial risk protection to households. Ghana began the implementation of a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in 2004 as a way to ensure equitable access to basic healthcare for all residents. After a decade of its implementation, national coverage is just about 34% of the national population. Affordability of the NHIS contribution is often cited by households as a major barrier to enrolment in the NHIS without any rigorous analysis of this claim. In light of the global interest in achieving universal health insurance coverage, this study seeks to examine the extent to which affordability of the NHIS contribution is a barrier to full insurance for households and a burden on their resources.
Methods
The study uses data from a cross-sectional household survey involving 2,430 households from three districts in Ghana conducted between January-April, 2011. Affordability of the NHIS contribution is analysed using the household budget-based approach based on the normative definition of affordability. The burden of the NHIS contributions to households is assessed by relating the expected annual NHIS contribution to household non-food expenditure and total consumption expenditure. Households which cannot afford full insurance were identified.
Results
Results show that 66% of uninsured households and 70% of partially insured households could afford full insurance for their members. Enroling all household members in the NHIS would account for 5.9% of household non-food expenditure or 2.0% of total expenditure but higher for households in the first (11.4%) and second (7.0%) socio-economic quintiles. All the households (29%) identified as unable to afford full insurance were in the two lower socio-economic quintiles and had large household sizes. Non-financial factors relating to attributes of the insurer and health system problems also affect enrolment in the NHIS.
Conclusion
Affordability of full insurance would be a burden on households with low socio-economic status and large household size. Innovative measures are needed to encourage abled households to enrol. Policy should aim at abolishing the registration fee for children, pricing insurance according to socio-economic status of households and addressing the inimical non-financial factors to increase NHIS coverage.
doi:10.1186/s12939-014-0130-2
PMCID: PMC4300159  PMID: 25595036
Voluntary health insurance; Universal coverage; Enrolment; Premium; Affordability; Ghana
10.  Perspectives of frontline health workers on Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme before and after community engagement interventions 
Background
Barely a decade after introduction of Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), significant successes have been recorded in universal access to basic healthcare services. However, sustainability of the scheme is increasingly threatened by concerns on quality of health service delivery in NHIS-accredited health facilities coupled with stakeholders’ discontentment with the operational and administrative challenges confronting the NHIS. The study sought to ascertain whether or not Systematic Community Engagement (SCE) interventions have a significant effect on frontline health workers’ perspectives on the NHIS and its impact on quality health service delivery.
Methods
The study is a randomized cluster trial involving clinical and non-clinical frontline health workers (n = 234) interviewed at baseline and follow-up in the Greater Accra and Western regions of Ghana. Individual respondents were chosen from within each intervention and control groupings. Difference-in-difference estimations and propensity score matching were performed to determine impact of SCE on staff perceptions of the NHIS. The main outcome measure of interest was staff perception of the NHIS based on eight (8) factor-analyzed quality service parameters.
Results
Staff interviewed in intervention facilities appeared to perceive the NHIS more positively in terms of its impact on “availability and quality of drugs (p < 0.05)” and “workload on health staff/infrastructure” than those interviewed in control facilities (p < 0.1). Delayed reimbursement of service providers remained a key concern to over 70 % of respondents in control and intervention health facilities.
Conclusion
Community engagement in quality service assessment is a potential useful strategy towards empowering communities while promoting frontline health workers’ interest, goodwill and active participation in Ghana’s NHIS.
doi:10.1186/s12913-016-1438-y
PMCID: PMC4884385  PMID: 27236330
Systematic community engagement interventions; National Health Insurance Scheme; Quality service; Frontline health workers; Perspectives; Ghana
11.  Community-based health insurance programmes and the national health insurance scheme of Nigeria: challenges to uptake and integration 
Background
Nigeria has included a regulated community-based health insurance (CBHI) model within its National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). Uptake to date has been disappointing, however. The aim of this study is to review the present status of CBHI in SSA in general to highlight the issues that affect its successful integration within the NHIS of Nigeria and more widely in developing countries.
Methods
A literature survey using PubMed and EconLit was carried out to identify and review studies that report factors affecting implementation of CBHI in SSA with a focus on Nigeria.
Results
CBHI schemes with a variety of designs have been introduced across SSA but with generally disappointing results so far. Two exceptions are Ghana and Rwanda, both of which have introduced schemes with effective government control and support coupled with intensive implementation programmes. Poor support for CBHI is repeatedly linked elsewhere with failure to engage and account for the ‘real world’ needs of beneficiaries, lack of clear legislative and regulatory frameworks, inadequate financial support, and unrealistic enrolment requirements. Nigeria’s CBHI-type schemes for the informal sectors of its NHIS have been set up under an appropriate legislative framework, but work is needed to eliminate regressive financing, to involve scheme members in the setting up and management of programmes, to inform and educate more effectively, to eliminate lack of confidence in the schemes, and to address inequity in provision. Targeted subsidies should also be considered.
Conclusions
Disappointing uptake of CBHI-type NHIS elements in Nigeria can be addressed through closer integration of informal and formal programmes under the NHIS umbrella, with increasing involvement of beneficiaries in scheme design and management, improved communication and education, and targeted financial assistance.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-20
PMCID: PMC3941795  PMID: 24559409
Community-Based Health Insurance; CBHI; Healthcare; National Health Insurance Scheme; NHIS; Sub-Saharan Africa; Nigeria
12.  Historical account of the national health insurance formulation in Kenya: experiences from the past decade 
Background
Many Low-and-Middle-Income countries are considering reviewing their health financing systems to meet the principles of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). One financing mechanism, which has dominated UHC reforms, is the development of health insurance schemes. We trace the historical development of the National Health Insurance (NHI) policy, illuminate stakeholders’ perceptions on the design to inform future development of health financing policies in Kenya.
Methods
We conducted a retrospective policy analysis of the development of a NHI policy in Kenya using data from document reviews and seven in depth interviews with key stakeholders involved in the NHI design. Analysis was conducted using a thematic framework.
Results
The design of a NHI scheme was marked by complex interaction of the actor’s understanding of the design, proposed implementation strategies and the covert opposition of the reform due to several reasons. First, actor’s perception of the cost of the NHI design and its implication to the economy generated opposition. This was due to inadequate communication strategies to articulate the policy, leading to a vacuum of factual information flow to various players. Secondly, perceived fear of implications of the changes among private sector players threatened support and success gained. Thirdly, underlying mistrust associated with perceived lack of government’s commitment towards transparency and good governance affected active engagement of all key players dampening the spirit of collective bargain breeding opposition. Finally, some international actors perceived a clash of their role and that of international programs based on vertical approaches that were inherent in the health system.
Conclusion
The thrust towards UHC using NHI schemes should not only focus on the design of a viable NHI package but should also involve stakeholder engagements, devise ways of improving the health care system, enhance transparency and develop adequate governance structures to institutions mandated to provide leadership in the reform process to overcome covert opposition.
doi:10.1186/s12913-015-0692-8
PMCID: PMC4332452  PMID: 25884159
Health insurance; Universal health care coverage; Policy Analysis
13.  Achieving universal health care coverage: Current debates in Ghana on covering those outside the formal sector 
Background
Globally, extending financial protection and equitable access to health services to those outside the formal sector employment is a major challenge for achieving universal coverage. While some favour contributory schemes, others have embraced tax-funded health service cover for those outside the formal sector. This paper critically examines the issue of how to cover those outside the formal sector through the lens of stakeholder views on the proposed one-time premium payment (OTPP) policy in Ghana.
Discussion
Ghana in 2004 implemented a National Health Insurance Scheme, based on a contributory model where service benefits are restricted to those who contribute (with some groups exempted from contributing), as the policy direction for moving towards universal coverage. In 2008, the OTPP system was proposed as an alternative way of ensuring coverage for those outside formal sector employment. There are divergent stakeholder views with regard to the meaning of the one-time premium and how it will be financed and sustained. Our stakeholder interviews indicate that the underlying issue being debated is whether the current contributory NHIS model for those outside the formal employment sector should be maintained or whether services for this group should be tax funded. However, the advantages and disadvantages of these alternatives are not being explored in an explicit or systematic way and are obscured by the considerable confusion about the likely design of the OTPP policy. We attempt to contribute to the broader debate about how best to fund coverage for those outside the formal sector by unpacking some of these issues and pointing to the empirical evidence needed to shed even further light on appropriate funding mechanisms for universal health systems.
Summary
The Ghanaian debate on OTPP is related to one of the most important challenges facing low- and middle-income countries seeking to achieve a universal health care system. It is critical that there is more extensive debate on the advantages and disadvantages of alternative funding mechanisms, supported by a solid evidence base, and with the policy objective of universal coverage providing the guiding light.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-12-25
PMCID: PMC3532243  PMID: 23102454
Universal health care coverage; National health insurance; Policy objective; Policy options; Those outside formal sector employment; Tax funding; One-time premium payment; Ghana
14.  Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme: a national level investigation of members’ perceptions of service provision 
Background
Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), established into law in 2003 and implemented in 2005 as a ‘pro-poor’ method of health financing, has made great progress in enrolling members of the general population. While many studies have focused on predictors of enrolment this study offers a novel analysis of NHIS members’ perceptions of service provision at the national level.
Methods
Using data from the 2008 Ghana Demographic Health Survey we analyzed the perceptions of service provision as indicated by members enrolled in the NHIS at the time of the survey (n = 3468; m = 1422; f = 2046). Ordinal Logistic Regression was applied to examine the relationship between perceptions of service provision and theoretically relevant socioeconomic and demographic variables.
Results
Results demonstrate that wealth, gender and ethnicity all play a role in influencing members’ perceptions of NHIS service provision, distinctive from its influence on enrolment. Notably, although wealth predicted enrolment in other studies, our study found that compared to the poorest men and uneducated women, wealthy men and educated women were less likely to perceive their service provision as better/same (more likely to report it was worse). Wealth was not an important factor for women, suggesting that household gender dynamics supersede household wealth status in influencing perceptions. As well, when compared to Akan women, women from all other ethnic groups were about half as likely to perceive the service provision to be better/same.
Conclusions
Findings of this study suggest there is an important difference between originally enrolling in the NHIS because one believes it is potentially beneficial, and using the NHIS and perceiving it to be of benefit. We conclude that understanding the nature of this relationship is essential for Ghana’s NHIS to ensure its longevity and meet its pro-poor mandate. As national health insurance systems are a relatively new phenomenon in sub-Saharan Africa little is known about their long term viability; understanding user perceptions of service provision is an important piece of that puzzle.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-13-35
PMCID: PMC3765400  PMID: 23968385
Health care; Ghana; Health insurance; National health insurance scheme; Perceptions; Service
15.  Risk management assessment of Health Maintenance Organisations participating in the National Health Insurance Scheme 
Background:
The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), operated majorly in Nigeria by health maintenance organisations (HMOs), took off formally in June 2005. In view of the inherent risks in the operation of any social health insurance, it is necessary to efficiently manage these risks for sustainability of the scheme. Consequently the risk-management strategies deployed by HMOs need regular assessment. This study assessed the risk management in the Nigeria social health insurance scheme among HMOs.
Materials and Methods:
Cross-sectional survey of 33 HMOs participating in the NHIS.
Results:
Utilisation of standard risk-management strategies by the HMOs was 11 (52.6%). The other risk-management strategies not utilised in the NHIS 10 (47.4%) were risk equalisation and reinsurance. As high as 11 (52.4%) of participating HMOs had a weak enrollee base (less than 30,000 and poor monthly premium and these impacted negatively on the HMOs such that a large percentage 12 (54.1%) were unable to meet up with their financial obligations. Most of the HMOs 15 (71.4%) participated in the Millennium development goal (MDG) maternal and child health insurance programme.
Conclusions:
Weak enrollee base and poor monthly premium predisposed the HMOs to financial risk which impacted negatively on the overall performance in service delivery in the NHIS, further worsened by the non-utilisation of risk equalisation and reinsurance as risk-management strategies in the NHIS. There is need to make the scheme compulsory and introduce risk equalisation and reinsurance.
doi:10.4103/0300-1652.140380
PMCID: PMC4178337  PMID: 25298605
Health maintenance organisations; National Health Insurance Scheme; risk equalisation; risk management
16.  A Review of the National Health Insurance Scheme in Ghana: What Are the Sustainability Threats and Prospects? 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(11):e0165151.
Background
The introduction of the national health insurance scheme (NHIS) in Ghana in 2003 significantly contributed to improved health services utilization and health outcomes. However, stagnating active membership, reports of poor quality health care rendered to NHIS-insured clients and cost escalations have raised concerns on the operational and financial sustainability of the scheme. This paper reviewed peer reviewed articles and grey literature on the sustainability challenges and prospects of the NHIS in Ghana.
Methods
Electronic search was done for literature published between 2003–2016 on the NHIS and its sustainability in Ghana. A total of 66 publications relevant to health insurance in Ghana and other developing countries were retrieved from Cochrane, PubMed, ScienceDirect and Googlescholar for initial screening. Out of this number, 31 eligible peer reviewed articles were selected for final review based on specific relevance to the Ghanaian context.
Results
Ability of the NHIS to continue its operations in Ghana is threatened financially and operationally by factors such as: cost escalation, possible political interference, inadequate technical capacity, spatial distribution of health facilities and health workers, inadequate monitoring mechanisms, broad benefits package, large exemption groups, inadequate client education, and limited community engagement. Moreover, poor quality care in NHIS-accredited health facilities potentially reduces clients’ trust in the scheme and consequently decreases (re)enrolment rates. These sustainability challenges were reviewed and discussed in this paper.
Conclusions
The NHIS continues to play a critical role towards attaining universal health coverage in Ghana albeit confronted by challenges that could potentially collapse the scheme. Averting this possible predicament will largely depend on concerted efforts of key stakeholders such as health insurance managers, service providers, insurance subscribers, policy makers and political actors.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0165151
PMCID: PMC5104458  PMID: 27832082
17.  Why are the poor less covered in Ghana’s national health insurance? A critical analysis of policy and practice 
Background
The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was introduced in Ghana to ensure equity in healthcare access. Presently, some low and middle income countries including Ghana are using social health insurance schemes to reduce inequity in access to healthcare. In Ghana, the NHIS was introduced to address the problem of inequity in healthcare access in a period that was characterised by user-fee regimes. The premium is heavily subsidised and exemption provided for the poorest, yet studies reveal that they are least enrolled in the scheme. We used a multi-level perspective as conceptual and methodological tool to examine why the NHIS is not reaching the poor as envisaged.
Methods
Fifteen communities in the Central and Eastern Regions of Ghana were surveyed after implementing a 20 months intervention programme aimed at ensuring that community members have adequate knowledge of the NHIS’ principles and benefits and improve enrolment and retention rates. Observation and in-depth interviews were used to gather information about the effects of the intervention in seven selected communities, health facilities and District Health Insurance Schemes in the Central Region.
Results
The results showed a distinct rise in the NHIS’ enrolment among the general population but the poor were less covered. Of the 6790 individuals covered in the survey, less than half (40.3 %) of the population were currently insured in the NHIS and 22.4 % were previously insured. The poorest had the lowest enrolment rate: poorest 17.6 %, poor 31.3 %, rich 46.4 % and richest 44.4 % (p = 0.000). Previous enrolment rates were: poorest (15.4 %) and richest (23.8 %), (p = 0.000). Ironically, the poor’s low enrolment was widely attributed to their poverty. The underlying structural cause, however, was policy makers’ and implementers’ lack of commitment to pursue NHIS’ equity goal.
Conclusion
Inequity in healthcare access persists because of the social and institutional environment in which the NHIS operates. There is a need to effectively engage stakeholders to develop interventions to ensure that the poor are included in the NHIS.
doi:10.1186/s12939-016-0320-1
PMCID: PMC4766646  PMID: 26911139
Health insurance; Enrolment; Retention; Poverty; Exemption; Equity; Assurance maladie; Inscription; Rétention; Pauvreté; Exemption; Equité
18.  Community perceptions of health insurance and their preferred design features: implications for the design of universal health coverage reforms in Kenya 
Background
Health insurance is currently being considered as a mechanism for promoting progress to universal health coverage (UHC) in many African countries. The concept of health insurance is relatively new in Africa, it is hardly well understood and remains unclear how it will function in countries where the majority of the population work outside the formal sector. Kenya has been considering introducing a national health insurance scheme (NHIS) since 2004. Progress has been slow, but commitment to achieve UHC through a NHIS remains. This study contributes to this process by exploring communities’ understanding and perceptions of health insurance and their preferred designs features. Communities are the major beneficiaries of UHC reforms. Kenyans should understand the implications of health financing reforms and their preferred design features considered to ensure acceptability and sustainability.
Methods
Data presented in this paper are part of a study that explored feasibility of health insurance in Kenya. Data collection methods included a cross-sectional household survey (n = 594 households) and focus group discussions (n = 16).
Results
About half of the household survey respondents had at least one member in a health insurance scheme. There was high awareness of health insurance schemes but limited knowledge of how health insurance functions as well as understanding of key concepts related to income and risk cross-subsidization. Wide dissatisfaction with the public health system was reported. However, the government was the most preferred and trusted agency for collecting revenue as part of a NHIS. People preferred a comprehensive benefit package that included inpatient and outpatient care with no co-payments. Affordability of premiums, timing of contributions and the extent to which population needs would be met under a contributory scheme were major issues of concern for a NHIS design. Possibilities of funding health care through tax instead of NHIS were raised and preferred by the majority.
Conclusion
This study provides important information on community understanding and perceptions of health insurance. As Kenya continues to prepare for UHC, it is important that communities are educated and engaged to ensure that the NHIS is acceptable to the population it serves.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-474
PMCID: PMC3842821  PMID: 24219335
19.  The national health insurance scheme: perceptions and experiences of health care providers and clients in two districts of Ghana 
Background
Prepayments and risk pooling through social health insurance has been advocated by international development organizations. Social health insurance is seen as a mechanism that helps mobilize resources for health, pool risk, and provide more access to health care services for the poor. Hence Ghana implemented the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to help promote access to health care services for Ghanaians. The study examined the influence of the NHIS on the behavior of health care providers in their treatment of insured and uninsured clients.
Methods
The study took place in Bolgatanga (urban) and Builsa (rural) districts in Ghana. Data was collected through exit survey with 200 insured and uninsured clients, 15 in-depth interviews with health care providers and health insurance managers, and 8 focus group discussions with insured and uninsured community members.
Results
The NHIS promoted access for insured and mobilized revenue for health care providers. Both insured and uninsured were satisfied with care (survey finding). However, increased utilization of health care services by the insured leading to increased workloads for providers influenced their behavior towards the insured. Most of the insured perceived and experienced long waiting times, verbal abuse, not being physically examined and discrimination in favor of the affluent and uninsured. The insured attributed their experience to the fact that they were not making immediate payments for services. A core challenge of the NHIS was a delay in reimbursement which affected the operations of health facilities and hence influenced providers’ behavior as well. Providers preferred clients who would make instant payments for health care services. Few of the uninsured were utilizing health facilities and visit only in critical conditions. This is due to the increased cost of health care services under the NHIS.
Conclusion
The perceived opportunistic behavior of the insured by providers was responsible for the difference in the behavior of providers favoring the uninsured. Besides, the delay in reimbursement also accounted for providers’ negative attitude towards the insured. There is urgent need to address these issues in order to promote confidence in the NHIS, as well as its sustainability for the achievement of universal coverage.
doi:10.1186/2191-1991-2-13
PMCID: PMC3505458  PMID: 22828034
National health insurance; Social health insurance; Universal health coverage; Perceptions; Experiences; Health care providers’ behavior; Insured; Uninsured; Ghana
20.  Public awareness and knowledge of the National Health Insurance in South Africa 
Introduction
Individuals residing in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape provinces who had access to public health services were surveyed to determine public knowledge and awareness of the new National Health Insurance (NHI).
Methods
A descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted and a total of 748 adult respondents were sampled using a two-stage systematic sampling design. Data were collected using mobile phone assisted personal interviews.
Results
The study found that 80.3% of the respondents were aware of the NHI and slightly less than half (49.8%) of the respondents did not have knowledge of how the NHI works and 71.8% lacked awareness about the origin of the development of the NHI concept in South Africa. The knowledge of what the NHI would pay for was poor and 48.1% knew that the NHI Fund would pay for medical expenses if a person got sick and 45.7% knew that with health insurance, basic health requirement is ensured and that if one becomes ill, medical treatment would be paid for by the NHI Fund, 50.9% of respondents did not understand how the NHI Fund will pay for health care received, only 44.8% understood how the NHI will pay for health care services received.
Conclusion
The public education campaigns to increase knowledge and understanding of the NHI scheme might have been inadequate hence might not have penetrated many communities. It is recommended that a comprehensive community consultation plan be established to increase awareness and knowledge of the NHI among community members targeting clinics, schools, pension pay points and other community sites.
doi:10.11604/pamj.2015.22.19.6131
PMCID: PMC4646437  PMID: 26600918
Awareness; knowledge; National health insurance; South Africa
21.  Willingness to participate and Pay for a proposed national health insurance in St. Vincent and the grenadines: a cross-sectional contingent valuation approach 
Background
Numerous Caribbean countries are considering implementing National Health Insurance (NHI) and pooling resources to finance their health sectors. Based on this increased interest in health insurance, we investigated the willingness to participate and to pay for NHI in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an upper-middle-income Caribbean country.
Methods
Four hundred heads of household in St. Vincent and the Grenadines were interviewed in August 2012 and September 2012. The samples were selected through simple random sampling, including the stratification of rural, semiurban, and urban communities to ensure the representativeness of the sample. A contingent valuation method with a pretested interviewer-led questionnaire was used. Respondents were presented with a hypothetical NHI plan. Chi-squared analysis was performed to identify factors that are associated with the willingness to participate. Multiple logistic regression was used to explore the factors that influence respondents’ willingness to pay.
Results
In total, 69.5% (n = 278) of the respondents indicated that they were willing to participate in the proposed NHI plan, of whom 72.3% were willing to pay for the first bid (EC$50). When the bid was reduced to EC$25, all of the remaining respondents who indicated they were willing to participate were willing to pay this lowered bid. Overall, the respondents were willing to pay EC$77.83 (US$28.83) per month for each person to enroll in the NHI plan. Age, income, and having some form of health insurance were significantly associated with a willingness to participate in the plan.
Conclusions
A higher socioeconomic status was the principal determinant factor for the willingness to participate. This is similar to studies on developing economies. The government can use these findings to guide the successful implementation of the proposed NHI program. People with a lower socioeconomic status must be engaged from the start of and throughout the development process to enhance their understanding of and participation in the plan.
doi:10.1186/s12913-015-0806-3
PMCID: PMC4404596  PMID: 25890181
National health insurance; Willingness to pay; Contingent valuation; St. Vincent and the Grenadines
22.  Who pays for health care in Ghana? 
Background
Financial protection against the cost of unforeseen ill health has become a global concern as expressed in the 2005 World Health Assembly resolution (WHA58.33), which urges its member states to "plan the transition to universal coverage of their citizens". An important element of financial risk protection is to distribute health care financing fairly in relation to ability to pay. The distribution of health care financing burden across socio-economic groups has been estimated for European countries, the USA and Asia. Until recently there was no such analysis in Africa and this paper seeks to contribute to filling this gap. It presents the first comprehensive analysis of the distribution of health care financing in relation to ability to pay in Ghana.
Methods
Secondary data from the Ghana Living Standard Survey (GLSS) 2005/2006 were used. This was triangulated with data from the Ministry of Finance and other relevant sources, and further complemented with primary household data collected in six districts. We implored standard methodologies (including Kakwani index and test for dominance) for assessing progressivity in health care financing in this paper.
Results
Ghana's health care financing system is generally progressive. The progressivity of health financing is driven largely by the overall progressivity of taxes, which account for close to 50% of health care funding. The national health insurance (NHI) levy (part of VAT) is mildly progressive and formal sector NHI payroll deductions are also progressive. However, informal sector NHI contributions were found to be regressive. Out-of-pocket payments, which account for 45% of funding, are regressive form of health payment to households.
Conclusion
For Ghana to attain adequate financial risk protection and ultimately achieve universal coverage, it needs to extend pre-payment cover to all in the informal sector, possibly through funding their contributions entirely from tax, and address other issues affecting the expansion of the National Health Insurance. Furthermore, the pre-payment funding pool for health care needs to grow so budgetary allocation to the health sector can be enhanced.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-10-26
PMCID: PMC3142212  PMID: 21708026
23.  Challenges in Provider Payment Under the Ghana National Health Insurance Scheme: A Case Study of Claims Management in Two Districts 
Ghana Medical Journal  2012;46(4):189-199.
Summary
In 2004, Ghana started implementing a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to remove cost as a barrier to quality healthcare. Providers were initially paid by fee - for - service. In May 2008, this changed to paying providers by a combination of Ghana - Diagnostic Related Groupings (G-DRGs) for services and fee - for - service for medicines through the claims process.
Objective
The study evaluated the claims management processes for two District MHIS in the Upper East Region of Ghana.
Methods
Retrospective review of secondary claims data (2008) and a prospective observation of claims management (2009) were undertaken. Qualitative and quantitative approaches were used for primary data collection using interview guides and checklists. The reimbursements rates and value of rejected claims were calculated and compared for both districts using the z test. The null hypothesis was that no differences existed in parameters measured.
Findings
Claims processes in both districts were similar and predominantly manual. There were administrative capacity, technical, human resource and working environment challenges contributing to delays in claims submission by providers and vetting and payment by schemes. Both Schemes rejected less than 1% of all claims submitted. Significant differences were observed between the Total Reimbursement Rates (TRR) and the Total Timely Reimbursement Rates (TTRR) for both schemes. For TRR, 89% and 86% were recorded for Kassena Nankana and Builsa Schemes respectively while for TTRR, 45% and 28% were recorded respectively.
Conclusion
Ghana's NHIS needs to reform its provider payment and claims submission and processing systems to ensure simpler and faster processes. Computerization and investment to improve the capacity to administer for both purchasers and providers will be key in any reform.
PMCID: PMC3645172  PMID: 23661837
claims management; claims process; claims rejection; health insurance
24.  An exploratory study of the policy process and early implementation of the free NHIS coverage for pregnant women in Ghana 
Background
Pregnant women were offered free access to health care through National Health Insurance (NHIS) membership in Ghana in 2008, in the latest phase of policy reforms to ensure universal access to maternal health care. During the same year, free membership was made available to all children (under-18). This article presents an exploratory qualitative analysis of how the policy of free maternal membership was developed and how it is being implemented.
Methods
The study was based on a review of existing literature – grey and published – and on a key informant interviews (n = 13) carried out in March-June 2012. The key informants included representatives of the key stakeholders in the health system and public administration, largely at national level but also including two districts.
Results
The introduction of the new policy for pregnant women was seen as primarily a political initiative, with limited stakeholder consultation. No costing was done prior to introduction, and no additional funds provided to the NHIS to support the policy after the first year. Guidelines had been issued but beyond collecting numbers of women registered, no additional monitoring and evaluation have yet been put in place to monitor its implementation. Awareness of the under-18 s policy amongst informants was so low that this component had to be removed from the final study. Initial barriers to access, such as pregnancy tests, were cited, but many appear to have been resolved now. Providers are concerned about the workload related to services and claims management but have benefited from increased financial resources. Users still face informal charges, and are reported to have responded differentially, with rises in antenatal care and in urban areas highlighted. Policy sustainability is linked to the survival of the NHIS as a whole.
Conclusions
Ghana has to be congratulated for its persistence in trying to address financial barriers. However, many themes from previous evaluations of exemptions policies in Ghana have recurred in this study – particularly, the difficulties of getting timely reimbursement to facilities, of controlling charging of patients, and of reaching the poorest. This suggests that providing free care through a national health insurance system has not solved systemic weaknesses. The wider concerns about raising the quality of care, and ensuring that all supply-side and demand-side elements are in place to make the policy effective will also take a longer term and bigger commitment.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-16
PMCID: PMC3599129  PMID: 23446355
Maternal health; Exemptions; Ghana; Health insurance; Policy process; Implementation
25.  Treatment-Seeking Behaviour and Social Health Insurance in Africa: The Case of Ghana Under the National Health Insurance Scheme 
Global Journal of Health Science  2014;7(1):296-314.
Health insurance is attracting more and more attention as a means for improving health care utilization and protecting households against impoverishment from out-of-pocket expenditures. Currently about 52 percent of the resources for financing health care services come from out of pocket sources or user fees in Africa. Therefore, Ghana serves as in interesting case study as it has successfully expanded coverage of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). The study aims to establish the treatment-seeking behaviour of households in Ghana under the NHI policy.
The study relies on household data collected from three districts in Ghana covering the 3 ecological zones namely the coastal, forest and savannah. Out of the 1013 who sought care in the previous 4 weeks, 60% were insured and 71% of them sought care from a formal health facility. The results from the multinomial logit estimations show that health insurance and travel time to health facility are significant determinants of health care demand. Overall, compared to the uninsured, the insured are more likely to choose formal health facilities than informal care including self-medication when ill. We discuss the implications of these results as the concept of the NHIS grows widely in Ghana and serves as a good model for other African countries.
doi:10.5539/gjhs.v7n1p296
PMCID: PMC4796516  PMID: 25560361
health insurance; health care utilisation; multinomial logit model; household survey; Ghana

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