Globally, healthcare systems are in quest of providing appropriate solutions for the myriad of health issues the people are facing. Programs and policies continue to be developed and modify to suit the short- and long-term goals with the overall game plan is to attain Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for all.
Unfortunately, this is not a smooth journey all the way, even though issues have been different at either various levels of implementation or from region to region. There have been diverse challenges including, lack of adequate finances, disease outbreaks, poor implementation strategies, mismanagement of resources among others.
Looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can see the impact of social determinants that have affected the provision of health services adversely. Main social determinants include geography, climate, economic means and social and cultural norms. Never in the past was the economic and geographical location of an area a key deterrent to accessing the very needed interventions to fight the pandemic. For example, Africa was at the blunt end of the stick when the developed countries, who also have the capacity for vaccine and drugs manufacturing, almost like clock work decided to bar or limit resources to the continent despite the knowledge of the predicament the continent would face. The cultural and religious norms on the other hand played a major role in the continent as the people engaged to use what was locally available. This has greatly helped curb the menace and gratefully the continent has not suffered what was predicted of it.
The pandemic has adversely affected and increased the health inflation. More people have been left venerable and are not able to purchase health services. Governments have been forced to either divert resources from some projects or use what has been in the reserves to ensure there is continued service delivery.
In Kenya, Jayesh Saini notes that the overall inflation has been on an upward acceleration and stands at about 6.9% compared to 4.8% same time last year. He said that the health inflation has also risen to about 12% compared to the world’s average of 9.5%. according to him, this means that the cost of accessing health services is now very high. This is a major deterrent to making UHC a reality, as more and more people, who do not have medical insurance have to dig deeper into their pockets to cater for medical bills. Without interventions, more and more people will end up in the below poverty line category. The high prices of fuel have driven the inflation to new highs across sectors, with none being spared as directly or indirectly fuel affects all transactions. This, coupled with the many job losses, business closures, reduced active business working hours due to the curfew and social distancing have affected adversely even the CPI and has made cost of living very high.
Much as the government is driving towards attaining UHC, with more people being exposed to poverty, the compulsory contributions that have been gazette may not be effective. The government has to look for constructive ways to ensure accessibility to health services for all as the current statistics show that unless something is done, the number of the indigent will increase. It is prudent that until the economy stabilizes, the stakeholders adopt a more flexible and user-friendly pricing that does not focus too much on profits but on equitable service delivery. This will happen when they come to the realization that over pricing their services may not attract the financial income, they hope for but that the more the merrier to even keep their ventures up and running. The government, as they main stakeholder, should be on the forefront to discuss with the other stakeholders and best practices to ensure that citizens and not over taxed to supplement for the indigents but that all work towards affordable services without closing down for profit providers. With the government and private sector working together, it is possible to come up with solutions that will reduce the upward spiral in purchase of healthcare services while ensuring the quality is not compromised. This will call for a give and take scenario for a win-win solution for the providers, financiers and consumers of the health services.