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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Assessing equity in health care through the national health insurance schemes of Nigeria and Ghana: a review-based comparative analysis

Isaac AO Odeyemi1* and John Nixon2

Author Affiliations

1 Senior Director and Head of Health Economics & Outcomes Research, Astellas Pharma UK Ltd, Staines, TW18 3AZ, UK

2 Teaching Associate in Health Economics, Department of Economics and Related Studies, University of York, York, YO10 5DD, UK

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International Journal for Equity in Health 2013, 12:9  doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-9

Published: 22 January 2013

Abstract

Background

Nigeria and Ghana have recently introduced a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) with the aim of moving towards universal health care using more equitable financing mechanisms. This study compares health and economic indicators, describes the structure of each country’s NHIS within the wider healthcare system, and analyses impacts on equity in financing and access to health care.

Methods

The World Bank and other sources were used to provide comparative health and economic data. Pubmed, Embase and EconLit were searched to locate studies providing descriptions of each NHIS and empirical evidence regarding equity in financing and access to health care. A diagrammatical representation of revenue-raising, pooling, purchasing and provision was produced in order to analyse the two countries’ systems.

Results

Over the period 2000–2010, Ghana maintained a marked advantage in life expectancy, infant mortality, under-5 year mortality, and has a lower burden of major diseases. Health care expenditure is about 5% of GDP in both countries but public expenditure in 2010 was 38% of total expenditure in Nigeria and 60% in Ghana. Financing and access are less equitable in Nigeria as, inter alia, private out-of-pocket expenditure has fallen from 80% to 66% of total spending in Ghana since the introduction of its NHIS but has remained at over 90% in Nigeria; NHIS membership in Nigeria and Ghana is approximately 3.5% and 65%, respectively; Nigeria offers a variable benefits package depending on membership category while Ghana has uniform benefits across all beneficiaries. Both countries exhibit improvements in equity but there is a pro-rich and pro-urban bias in membership.

Conclusions

Major health indicators are more favourable in Ghana and overall equity in financing and access are weaker in Nigeria. Nigeria is taking steps to expand NHIS membership and has potential to expand its public spending to achieve greater equity. However, heavy burdens of poverty, disease and remote settings make this a substantial challenge. Ghana’s relative success has to be tempered by the high number of exemptions through taxation and the threat of moral hazard. The results and methods are anticipated to be informative for policy makers and researchers in both countries and other developing countries more widely.

Keywords:
Healthcare systems; Health economics; Health care expenditure; Access; Equity; Social health insurance; National Health Insurance Scheme; NHIS; Sub-Saharan Africa; Nigeria; Ghana