Financing for universal health coverage in small island states: evidence from the Fiji Islands

Asante, Augustine D, Irava, Wayne, Limwattananon, Supon, Hayen, Andrew, Martins, Joao, Guinness, Lorna, Ataguba, John E, Price, Jennifer, Jan, Stephen and Mills, Anne (2017) Financing for universal health coverage in small island states: evidence from the Fiji Islands. BMJ Global Health, 2 (2). e000200.


Background: Universal health coverage (UHC) is critical to global poverty alleviation and equity of health systems. Many low-income and middle-income countries, including small island states in the Pacific, have committed to UHC and reforming their health financing systems to better align with UHC goals. This study provides the first comprehensive evidence on equity of the health financing system in Fiji, a small Pacific island state. The health systems of such states are poorly covered in the international literature.
Methods: The study employs benefit and financing incidence analyses to evaluate the distribution of health financing benefits and burden across the public and private sectors. Primary data from a cross-sectional survey of 2000 households were used to assess healthcare benefits and secondary data from the 2008–2009 Fiji Household Income and Expenditure Survey to assess health financing contributions. These were analysed by socioeconomic groups to determine the relative benefit and financing incidence across these groups.
Findings: The distribution of healthcare benefits in Fiji slightly favours the poor—around 61% of public spending for nursing stations and 26% of spending for government hospital inpatient care were directed to services provided to the poorest 20% of the population. The financing system is significantly progressive with wealthier groups bearing a higher share of the health financing burden.
Conclusions: The healthcare system in Fiji achieves a degree of vertical equity in financing, with the poor receiving a higher share of benefits from government health spending and bearing a lower share of the financing burden than wealthier groups.

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