Assessing the impoverishing effects, and factors associated with the incidence of catastrophic health care payments in Kenya

Barasa EW, Maina T, Ravishankar N
Int J Equity Health. 2017;16

Permenent descriptor

BACKGROUND: Monitoring the incidence and intensity of catastrophic health expenditure, as well as the impoverishing effects of out of pocket costs to access healthcare, is a key part of benchmarking Kenya's progress towards reducing the financial burden that households experience when accessing healthcare. METHODS: The study relies on data from the nationally-representative Kenya Household Expenditure and Utilization Survey conducted in 2013 (n =33,675). We undertook health equity analysis to estimate the incidence and intensity of catastrophic expenditure. Households were considered to have incurred catastrophic expenditures if their annual out of-pocket health expenditures exceeded 40% of their annual non-food expenditure. We assessed the impoverishing effects of out of pocket payments using the Kenya national poverty line. We distinguished between direct payments for healthcare such as payments for consultation, medicines, medical procedures, and total healthcare expenditure that includes direct healthcare payments and the cost of transportation to and from health facilities. We used logistic regression analysis to explore the factors associated with the incidence of catastrophic expenditures. RESULTS: When only direct payments to healthcare providers were considered, the incidence of catastrophic expenditures was 4.52%. When transport costs are included, the incidence of catastrophic expenditure increased to 6.58%. 453,470 Kenyans are pushed into poverty annually as a result of direct payments for healthcare. When the cost of transport is included, that number increases by more than one third to 619,541. Unemployment of the household head, presence of an elderly person, a person with a chronic ailment, a large household size, lower household social-economic status, and residence in marginalized regions of the country are significantly associated with increased odds of incurring catastrophic expenditures. CONCLUSIONS: Kenyan policy makers should prioritize extending pre-payment mechanisms to more vulnerable groups, specifically the poor, the elderly, those suffering from chronic ailments and those living in marginalized regions of the country. The range of services covered under these mechanisms should also be extended such that the proportion of direct costs paid to access care is reduced. Policy makers should also prioritize reducing supply side bottlenecks such as availability of healthcare facilities in close proximity to the population, especially in rural and marginalized areas, and improvements in quality of care. For the poor and the vulnerable, initiatives to cover the cost of transport to and from a health facility, such as transport vouchers could also be explored.