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Universal health coverage (UHC) is important in terms of improving access to quality health care while protecting households from the risk of catastrophic health spending and impoverishment. However, progress to UHC has been hampered by the measures to increase mandatory prepaid funds especially in low- and middle-income countries where there are large populations in the informal sector. Important considerations in expanding coverage to the informal sector should include an exploration of the type of prepayment system that is acceptable to the informal sector and the features of such a design that would encourage prepayment for health care among this population group. The objective of the study was to document the views of informal sector workers regarding different prepayment mechanisms, and critically analyze key design features of a future health system and the policy implications of financing UHC in Kenya.
This was part of larger study which involved a mixed-methods approach. The following tools were used to collect data from informal sector workers: focus group discussions [N = 16 (rural = 7; urban = 9)], individual in-depth interviews [N = 26 (rural = 14; urban = 12)] and a questionnaire survey [N = 455(rural = 129; urban = 326)]. Thematic approach was used to analyze qualitative data while Stata v.11 involving mainly descriptive analysis was used in quantitative data. The tools mentioned were used to collect data to meet various objectives of a larger study and what is presented here constitutes a small section of the data generated by these tools.
The findings show that informal sector workers in rural and urban areas prefer different prepayment systems for financing UHC. Preference for a non-contributory system of financing UHC was particularly strong in the urban study site (58%). Over 70% in the rural area preferred a contributory mechanism in financing UHC. The main concern for informal sector workers regardless of the overall design of the financing approach to UHC included a poor governance culture especially one that does not punish corruption. Other reasons especially with regard to the contributory financing approach included high premium costs and inability to enforce contributions from informal sector.
On average 47% of all study participants, the largest single majority, are in favor of a non-contributory financing mechanism. Strong evidence from existing literature indicates difficulties in implementing social contributions as the primary financing mechanism for UHC in contexts with large informal sector populations. Non-contributory financing should be strongly recommended to policymakers to be the primary financing mechanism and supplemented by social contributions.