Health financing

Voluntary health insurance

Voluntary health insurance (VHI) schemes exist in many countries. In higher-income countries VHI tends to provide cover for health services, payment, or facilities not included or fully included in publicly-funded benefits. In lower-income countries where publicly-funded health systems tend to be weaker, VHI is also found in the form of community-based health insurance.

VHI expenditure plays a marginal role in most health systems, contributing less than 5% of total health spending in three quarters of all countries. No country has achieved progress towards UHC by mainly relying on VHI.

Voluntary health insurance in more detail

What is voluntary health insurance?

Voluntary health insurance schemes are those where the decision to join and the payment of a premium is voluntary.

Key policy messages

If the role of VHI within a health system is not clear, it can contribute to increased fragmentation, limiting the redistribution of funds towards those who needs it.

Its role in progressing towards universal health coverage

Voluntary contributions to health insurance schemes have limited effect in terms of moving a health system towards universal health coverage.

The need for regulation

A voluntary health insurance scheme can benefit its members, but in the process can have a negative effect on the rest of the system and the population as a whole.

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