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Assessing income redistributive effect of health financing in Zambia

Arnold Mulenga and John Ataguba ()

Social Science & Medicine, 2017, vol. 189, issue C, 1-10

Abstract: Ensuring an equitable health financing system is a major concern particularly in many developing countries. Internationally, there is a strong debate to move away from excessive reliance on direct out-of-pocket (OOP) spending towards a system that incorporates a greater element of risk pooling and thus affords greater protection for the poor. This is a major focus of the move towards universal health coverage (UHC). Currently, Zambia with high levels of poverty and income inequality is implementing health sector reforms for UHC through a social health insurance scheme. However, the way to identify the health financing mechanisms that are best suited to achieving this goal is to conduct empirical analysis and consider international evidence on funding universal health systems. This study assesses, for the first time, the progressivity of health financing and how it impacts on income inequality in Zambia. Three broad health financing mechanisms (general tax, a health levy and OOP spending) were considered. Data come from the 2010 nationally representative Zambian Living Conditions and Monitoring Survey with a sample size of 19,397 households. Applying standard methodologies, the findings show that total health financing in Zambia is progressive. It also leads to a statistically significant reduction in income inequality (i.e. a pro-poor redistributive effect estimated at 0.0110 (p < 0.01)). Similar significant pro-poor redistribution was reported for general taxes (0.0101 (p < 0.01)) and a health levy (0.0002 (p < 0.01)). However, the redistributive effect was not significant for OOP spending (0.0006). These results further imply that health financing redistributes income from the rich to the poor with a greater potential via general taxes. This points to areas where government policy may focus in attempting to reduce the high level of income inequality and to improve equity in health financing towards UHC in Zambia.

Keywords: Zambia; Redistributive effect; Health financing; Vertical effect; Horizontal effect; Reranking (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.07.017

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