The UN recently announced that paying out-of-pocket for healthcare leads to “deep impoverishment” in many nations. It is estimated that 80 percent of people throughout 44 countries do not have healthcare due to the high cost.

“It is the poorest with the highest needs who suffer the most from having to pay out-of-pocket healthcare expenses,” says ILO Health Policy Coordinator, Xenia Scheil-Adlung.

According to the World Health Organization, over 100 million people fall into poverty every year due to medical expenses. An additional 150 million are required to contribute almost half of their incomes on medical bills. The majority of these countries lack social healthcare programs, affordable insurance options or government-funded healthcare.

Remarkably, a great deal of those living in impoverished areas devote relatively more money to health services than people living in wealthy, developed countries. For instance, in Germany where almost every citizen has social healthcare, residents pay only 10 percent of national medical expenses.

On the other hand, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo very few residents have access to healthcare and they pay approximately 70 percent of national medical care costs. Similarly, in Seirra Leone, citizens pay over 75 percent of total healthcare expenses out-of-pocket. This has resulted in deep impoverishment in Seirra Leone and other similar nations.

“At least 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to the most basic healthcare,” said Dr. Rüdiger Krech, Head of Social Protection in the Division Health, Education and Social Protection at GTZ. “Often it is because they cannot afford it. As a result, millions become very sick or die every year from preventable or curable medical conditions. For example, the toll from treatable infections and preventable complications of pregnancy and delivery is more than 10 million deaths each year,” Krech added.

Since 2010, national economic consolidation policies have delayed and adversely affected efforts toward universal healthcare. Recent policies have cut back health services and reduced wages for healthcare workers, augmenting the financial hardship on private households.

Officials state that universal healthcare access is a key element in the global initiative to end poverty. Director-General of the International Labor Organization, Guy Ryder, emphasizes that universal healthcare diminishes inequality and promotes economic growth.

“Social health protection is not only a key tool to make health care accessible to all and to free millions of people from poverty. It is also an investment in health, productivity and development—an investment that is a prerequisite for international competitiveness,” said Assane Diop, Executive Director of the ILO.

Experts agree that investments in healthcare systems create economic growth for all parties involved as well as raises in productivity and wellbeing for residents. Many urge that in order to overcome the global health crisis, policies for universal healthcare must be initiated.

Meagan Douches

Sources: United Natons, World Bank, World Health Organization
Photo: Empower Magazine