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Soc Sci Med. 1999 Apr;48(7):881-96.

Social movements and health insurance: a critical evaluation of voluntary, non-profit insurance schemes with case studies from Ghana and Cameroon.

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Health Economics Consultant, London, UK.


This paper assesses the performance of voluntary, non-profit health insurance schemes and their potential contribution to health in the two African countries of Ghana and Cameroon. Based on fieldwork conducted in the two countries during the main rainy season (June-July) of 1996, the paper examines whether and in which way the presence or absence of a social movement component might affect the performance of voluntary, non-profit insurance schemes in attaining some key objectives of improving access to health care among the target population, as well as achieving equity, efficiency and financial viability. The paper makes this assessment by examining the performances of each of two case studies according to the criteria of social movement, efficiency, equity, access and financial results. Based on case studies of a community financing insurance scheme in Ghana and a mutual aid insurance association in Cameroon, the study concludes that the evidence is not sufficient to confirm that the presence or absence of such a social movement dynamic per se accounts for the perceived performance of either of the schemes. However, it is also argued that the dynamic of social movement could enhance the design and performance of a scheme, especially the efficiency and quality of health care. Such enhancement is possible provided that the scheme is set up in such a way as to benefit from the specific contribution of a movement component, in particular, if the scheme engages in direct negotiations with providers over the price and quality of care and makes direct payment contracts with such providers. A good scheme design is therefore one of the real keys to success. Moreover, it is arguable that a non-social movement based scheme can incorporate elements of a social movement (such as greater community participation, accountability and autonomy) in the course of time. It is argued that this process would enhance the success of a non-movement-based scheme. The study finally presents some lessons and suggestions from the examination of the schemes which could be of benefit in the design, implementation and evaluation of similar schemes.

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