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Who uses outpatient healthcare services under Ghana’s health protection scheme and why?

Fenny, A. P., Asante, F. A., Arhinful, D. K. , Kusi, A., Parmar, D. & Williams, G. (2016). Who uses outpatient healthcare services under Ghana’s health protection scheme and why?. BMC Health Services Research, 16(1), article number 174. doi: 10.1186/s12913-016-1429-z


Background: The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was launched in Ghana in 2003 with the main objective of increasing utilisation to healthcare by making healthcare more affordable. Previous studies on the NHIS have repeatedly highlighted that cost of premiums is one of the major barriers for enrollment. However, despite introducing premium exemptions for pregnant women, older people, children and indigents, many Ghanaians are still not active members of the NHIS. In this paper we investigate why there is limited success of the NHIS in improving access to healthcare in Ghana and whether social exclusion could be one of the limiting barriers. The study explores this by looking at the Social, Political, Economic and Cultural (SPEC) dimensions of social exclusion.

Methods: Using logistic regression, the study investigates the determinants of health service utilisation using SPEC variables including other variables. Data was collected from 4050 representative households in five districts in Ghana covering the 3 ecological zones (coastal, forest and savannah) in Ghana.

Results: Among 16,200 individuals who responded to the survey, 54 % were insured. Out of the 1349 who sought health care, 64 % were insured and 65 % of them had basic education and 60 % were women. The results from the logistic regressions show health insurance status, education and gender to be the three main determinants of health care utilisation. Overall, a large proportion of the insured who reported ill, sought care from formal health care providers compared to those who had never insured in the scheme.

Conclusion: The paper demonstrates that the NHIS presents a workable policy tool for increasing access to healthcare through an emphasis on social health protection. However, affordability is not the only barrier for access to health services. Geographical, social, cultural, informational, political, and other barriers also come into play.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Utilisation; National Health Insurance; Ghana; Outpatient services
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
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