Universal access to health

Fact sheet
2 March 2010

Universal access to health care is the target

  • The ultimate goal is universal coverage so that everyone can afford medical help and have access to appropriate promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative services at an affordable cost.

Tens of millions deprived of basic human care

  • To help improve the situation, WHO in the Western Pacific Region is proposing a health financing strategy for Member States for the years 2010 to 2015.
  • Too many people in the Asia Pacific region are paying for medical care out of their own pocket: an estimated 105 million people suffer financial catastrophe and over 70 million are impoverished each year because they have to pay for health care, with low government health spending in many countries in the region. This situation can push large numbers of households into poverty due to ill-health and out-of-pocket spending for health care.
  • Levels of out-of-pocket spending for many countries in the Region are highest in the world.

Political commitment is the key

  • The Health Financing Strategy for the Asia Pacific Region (2010-2015) will help governments analyse their health financing situations and identify specific actions to achieve universal coverage.
  • Appropriate health financing policies can help reduce these barriers to access, and thereby extend health gains to those most in need.

The right to good health is a basic human right

  • Access to decent health care is a basic human right, but millions in this region, especially the poor and vulnerable, have little or no access to quality health care.

Health Financing Strategy for the Asia Pacific Region (2010-2015).

WHO proposes four targets:

1. Out-of-pocket spending should not exceed 30%-40% of total health expenditures.

2. Total health expenditures should be at least 4%-5% of GDP.

  • While 4%-5% is only a suggested target, countries will need to examine their own finances and see what is possible.
  • Some countries may find 5% achievable. For instance, China has set 2020 as a target for universal access through greater spending.
  • But others will have to wait a while before they can achieve the target.
  • The plan will help governments analyse their health-financing situation and identify actions that will help achieve universal access.

3. Over 90% of the population should be covered by some form of prepayment.

  • Many health systems rely heavily on out-of-pocket spending as their main source of income.

4. Extensive safety-net programmes should be put in place for vulnerable populations.

  • The targets indicators in the strategy are useful as a guide for achieving universal coverage through appropriate health financing policies although countries will need to set their own realistic targets
Governments can raise necessary funds
  • Look at their own processes and find wasteful practices or duplication.
  • Consider increasing tax revenues, expanding the tax base, borrowing externally or seeking debt repayment relief. In all undertakings, political commitment must prevail.

Importance of universal access in the broader spectrum of public health goals

  • The right to good health is a basic human right. But for tens of millions of people in the Asia Pacific region, decent health care is simply not affordable.
  • In this part of the world, 900 million people live on less than US$ 2 a day. They have no or little access to health care.
  • Tens of millions of people are being pushed further into poverty by having to pay medical costs out of their own pocket.
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