Social Health Insurance and Healthcare Seeking Behavior in Urban Ethiopia

Zahra Zarepour*, Anagaw Mebratie, Dessalegn Shamebo, Zemzem Shigute, Getnet Alemu, Arjun S. Bedi

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: After years of planning, in 2024 the government of Ethiopia proposes to introduce a compulsory Social Health Insurance (SHI) program for formal sector employees. The proposed scheme will provide access to contracted healthcare facilities at a premium of 3% of the gross monthly income of employees with another 3% coming from the employer. Objectives: Several studies have examined the willingness to pay (WTP) this premium, however, little is known about the healthcare seeking behavior (HSB) of formal sector employees. This paper investigates both – the determinants of healthcare seeking behavior and among other aspects, WTP the premium. Through these explorations, the paper sheds light on the potential challenges for implementation of SHI. Methods: Descriptive statistics, logit, and multinomial logit (MNL) models are used to analyze retrospective survey data (2,749 formal sector employees) which covers the major regions of the country. Findings: Regarding outpatient care, a majority of the visits (55.9%) were to private healthcare providers. In the case of inpatient care, it was the opposite with a majority of healthcare seekers visiting public sector hospitals (62.5%). A majority of the sample (67%) supported the introduction of SHI but only 24% were willing to pay the proposed SHI premium. The average WTP was 1.6% of gross monthly income. Respondents in the two richest income quintiles were more likely to oppose SHI and consider it unfair. Conclusion: The prominent role of the private sector and the resistance to SHI amongst the two richest income quintiles, suggests that the SHI program needs to actively include private healthcare facilities within its ambit. Additionally, concerted efforts at enhancing the quality of care available at public health facilities, both, in terms of perception and patient-centered care and addressing drug and equipment availability bottlenecks, are needed, if SHI is to garner wider support.

Original languageEnglish
Article number84
JournalAnnals of Global Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2023

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