Nepal: How a government can #WalkTogether for Health For All

Nepal / Freedom Stories / 8 nov 2017

An estimated 400 million individuals lack access to essential health services across the world. This is a global problem affecting low-income, middle-income and high-income countries alike. One of the key reasons that so many lack access is unaffordable fees for healthcare. Universal Health Coverage (UHC) means everybody receives the health services they need without suffering financial hardship. It is featured prominently as one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals under Goal Three: Good Health and Wellbeing. In order to achieve UHC, countries’ governments must increase the supply and quality of health services and reduce barriers that prevent people from accessing healthcare. Many governments are now recognising that in order to cover everyone, it is necessary to require healthy and wealthy members of society to subsidise services for the sick and poor. One country that has taken the vital step towards this model is Nepal.

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia and is characterised by huge wealth inequality between rural and urban areas. After suffering a decade-long conflict ending in 2006 alongside much political instability in its aftermath, the ability of Nepalese people to access healthcare has also been damaged by numerous natural disasters and the inaccessibility of much of its landscape. However, just three years after Nepal’s first Republican Constitution, the government has passed the National Health Insurance Act: a foundational legislative achievement that will help address the large gaps in healthcare facing the country. All citizens will now be covered by health insurance. Out of pocket premiums are modest and these are subsidised for the poor, disabled and elderly.

There are few examples of national health insurance in low-income countries. In fact, a number of high-income countries still lack legislative mandates that provide comprehensive national coverage. Nepal is therefore leading the way by pursuing UHC for its citizens. The nation still has some way to go to achieve UHC, and will need to build upon this legislation by increasing public sector health spending to increase the supply of quality health services for everyone. However, they are now in a better position to do so and can be seen as a positive role model for other nations who aim to achieve health for all.

(From: http://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20171027.743636/full/)