Health financing for universal coverage

Financial protection

An important health system goal is financial protection for patients. This means that patients do not face catastrophic levels of health spending as a result of seeking healthcare.

Public spending for health services is vital to ensure equal access to health services, and financial protection for patients. A government might have low public spending on health because of the fiscal capacity in a country, and the priority the government gives to the health sector in budget allocations.

However, evidence shows that when private spending dominates, patients are not financially protected. There is an increase in the number of households getting into serious financially difficulty.

How much public spending is enough?

There is no single answer to this question, as the extent to which funds are pooled and the way that pooled funds are spent varies and determine health system performance.

Efforts have been made to estimate a level of public spending required to move towards universal health coverage. These include US$86 per capita (2012) or at least 5% of GDP, at least 6% of GDP, and at least 15% of total government spending.

However, ongoing work by WHO suggests that even at very low levels of spending, countries can make significant progress towards universal health coverage (UHC).