Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Catastrophic and poverty impacts of health payments: results from national household surveys in Thailand

Supon Limwattananon, Viroj Tangcharoensathien, Phusit Prakongsai

Objective

To estimate the incidence and describe the profile of catastrophic expenditures and impoverishment due to household out-of-pocket payments, comparing the periods before and after the introduction of universal health care coverage (UC).

Methods

Secondary data analyses of socioeconomic surveys on nationally representative households pre-UC in 2000 (n = 24 747) and post-UC in 2002 (n = 34 785) and 2004 (n = 34 843).

Findings

Households using inpatient care experienced catastrophic expenditures most often (31.0% in 2000, compared with 15.1% and 14.6% in 2002 and 2004, respectively). During the two post-UC periods, the incidence of catastrophic expenditures for inpatient services at private hospitals was 32.1% for 2002 and 27.8% for 2004. For those using inpatient care at district hospitals, the corresponding catastrophic expenditures figures were 6.5% and 7.3% in 2002 and 2004, respectively. The catastrophic expenditures incidence for outpatient services from private hospitals moved from 27.9% to 28.5% between 2002 and 2004. In 2000, before universal coverage was introduced, the percentages of Thai households who used private hospitals and faced catastrophic expenditures were 35.8% for inpatient care and 36.0% for outpatient care. Impoverishment increased for poor households because of payments for inpatient services by 84.0% in 2002, by 71.5% in 2004 and by 95.6% in 2000. The relative increase in out-of-pocket impoverishment was found in 98.8% to 100% of those who were poor following payments made to private hospitals, regardless of type of care.

Conclusion

Households using inpatient services, especially at private hospitals, were more likely to face catastrophic expenditures and impoverishment from out-of-pocket payments. Use of services not covered by the UC benefit package and bypassing the designated providers (prohibited under the capitation contract model without proper referrals) are major causes of catastrophic expenditures and impoverishment.

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