Health financing

Free health care policies

Community volunteers treating malaria and pneumonia in Burkina Faso

Free health care (FHC) policies – or politiques de gratuité – are about removing formal user fees either fully or partially. The removal may apply either to all health services, to the primary care level, to selected population groups, to selected services for everyone, or to selected services for specific population groups.

However, to date, evidence about the impact of FHC policies in terms of financial protection and health service utilization is mixed. If well designed and implemented, FHC can be a way to expand coverage in countries with few resources and can therefore be part of a strategy and a catalyst to move towards Universal Health Coverage.

Free Health Care policy in more detail

What is a Free Health Care policy and how can it help move towards UHC?

Free Health Care (FHC) policies aim to reduce the financial barriers that people experience when trying to access health services. A FHC policy eliminates formal user fees at the point of service; this can be for all services, for primary health care, for selected population groups, for selected services for everyone or for selected services for specific population groups, usually characterized by medical or economic vulnerability.

What is the potential impact of FHC policies?

FHC policies may actually trigger an increase in the use of services, but evidence on improved financial protection is mixed. People may still have to make direct payments for other services they need.