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healthcare in The Netherlands
Having healthcare is a requirement for working adults in the Netherlands, but despite having virtually no barriers to accessing healthcare, costs remain high. Many low-income residents struggle to pay for monthly health insurance bills despite various exemptions. Structural reforms within the healthcare system in the Netherlands account for the 8% poverty rate, but that number has not changed despite economic growth within the country.

Public vs. Private Healthcare

The Dutch healthcare system implements elements of public and private insurance to ensure that each healthcare plan is customizable for individuals. The funding for this insurance comes primarily from the government, with basic medical needs covered, although people can purchase add-ons if desired. There exist several notable differences between private and public healthcare. The public system separates care into two sections: one covers emergency visits and general doctor visits, while the other one covers long term treatments and nursing. The private healthcare system goes more in-depth, with a wide range of options for patients that include different medical expertise such as physical therapy and specialized dental care.

Insurance companies are required to accept every applicant, and those who choose the standard healthcare plan can switch companies at any time. Each individual has separate insurance, so no family plans are available. Children under 18 are automatically covered. Healthcare-related expenses account for 10.5% of the Netherlands’ overall GDP. Furthermore, the Ministry of Healthcare separates the healthcare system into municipalities that manage specific sections. This ensures that government intervention remains as minimal as possible. The number of uninsured residents dropped to 23,000 in 2016 as a result of strict healthcare mandates by the government.

Changes to the Healthcare System

The universal system of healthcare in the Netherlands has been widely regarded as one of the best in the world due to its accessibility and high quality of care. The government first introduced a national healthcare plan in 1941, but only the wealthy population could reap the benefits of private care. The 2006 Healthcare Act reformed this system by combining the two separate programs into one umbrella social welfare plan that integrated the accessibility of public healthcare with the resources of private healthcare.

Wealth Inequality Within Healthcare

Healthcare in the Netherlands comes with its own set of problems. Many residents struggle to keep up with the payments, as most of the funding for the healthcare system comes from taxpayers. Additionally, the standard healthcare package does not cover certain treatments and medication, which means that residents have to pay out of pocket for those expenses. Furthermore, many citizens are not educated about the healthcare system and the options they have, making low-income citizens especially vulnerable given that they also have little choice between healthcare providers. For improvements to be made, healthcare in the Netherlands needs to give power back to doctors and hospitals rather than leaving it in the hands of the insurance companies.

– Xenia Gonikberg
Photo: Pixabay

Philippines Responds to Natural DisastersIn response to being one of the most vulnerable countries to earthquakes and typhoons, the Philippines’ catastrophe risk insurance program was created. The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) will provide the government and 25 participating provinces with catastrophe risk insurance.

The World Bank estimates that 20 typhoons each year cause landfall in the Philippines, bringing with them $3.5 billion in losses. As part of the government’s disaster risk finance strategy, the new insurance program strengthens the country’s financial protection and disaster risk reduction management.

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), part of the World Bank Group, and the U.K. Department for International Development support the program.

The new Philippines’ catastrophe risk insurance program ensures governments fast cash in an emergency. The transactions $206 million investment protects the national government’s assets from typhoons and earthquakes, as well as that of the 25 participating provinces.

Natural disasters weaken infrastructure and inhibit economic growth and development in poorer areas. Forty percent of the population survives on less than $2 per day, and many of these people live in high-risk areas. Approximately a third of the nation’s workers are in the agricultural sector, which is vulnerable to severe weather.

The Philippines’s new insurance program is related to the Insurance Development Forum (IDF), a public-private partnership closing the protection gap between insured disaster losses and the economic costs of disasters. With support from the World Bank Group and the United Nations Development Programme, IDF improves risk management capabilities and economic resilience for vulnerable people, communities, businesses and public institutions.

According to Joaquim Levy, Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer of the World Bank Group, “this new insurance program illustrates how the World Bank Group can leverage capital from the market…to sustain essential services in times of crisis, empowering local governments to more effectively assist their citizens.”

Protecting the nation’s financials and empowering local governments, the Philippines‘ catastrophe risk insurance program advances development and poverty reduction, even in the hardest-hit places.

Sarah Dunlap

Photo: Flickr


The drought in Kenya has reached “epic” proportions, according to government officials. The lack of rainfall caused Kenyan officials to declare the situation a national disaster, and approximately 2.7 million people have been affected.

Fortunately, on Feb. 20, relief reached many via insurance payouts under a livestock insurance subsidy through the Kenya Livestock Insurance Program (KLIP). This is no ordinary insurance company, though. Thanks to development by Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and technical assistance from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), KLIP is using satellite technology to assist the affected farmers.

Automatically-Triggered Technology

Using both visible and infrared frequencies, the sensitive satellites used by KLIP record the color of ground vegetation in the affected areas. With comparative analysis, KLIP then reviews the recorded data to determine if there is enough “green” plant matter available for livestock to consume. If the index of data indicates a health risk for the livestock based on lack of resources, the insurance payouts are automatically triggered. The technology is tailored so that the subsidies are automatically deposited into farmers’ accounts. The state of the current drought in Kenya triggered KLIP’s criteria, and more than $2 million was paid to approximately 12,000 affected households.

Sustenance via Satellite

On average, each household will receive $170. Based on figures used by KLIP, the subsidy will be enough to support approximately 70,000 head of livestock. An estimated 100,000 people stand to benefit from the payout.

In addition to the monetary benefits, livestock feed, veterinary medicine and water trucks are deployed when the system is triggered. The Kenyan government also plans to increase food rations to those hardest hit.

Cabinet secretary for Kenya’s agriculture ministry, Willy Bett, acknowledged the importance of the recent disbursement to mitigate the drought in Kenya, “…without their livestock, pastoralist communities would be devastated.”

Gisele Dunn

Photo: Flickr

Why the Health Care in Cyprus Needs Improvement
Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean, is considered a high-income country. Despite the country’s positive economic reputation and the population’s high average life expectancy of 80 years (as of 2012), the country’s Minister of Health, Androulla Agrotou, states that the health care in Cyprus needs reformation to be more economically beneficial and sustainable.

One major issue that affects this economic inefficiency is the inability of the Ministry of Health to offer universal healthcare. In fact, Cyprus is the only EU country that has not implemented a universal health care system. Currently, the healthcare in Cyprus provides two main options: public and private.

Public healthcare is funded by the government and provided by hospitals and primary healthcare centers directly under the Ministry of Health. It is provided in many forms ranging from emergency services to pharmaceutical services, dental care and rehabilitation. Furthermore, public healthcare is offered to everyone in medical emergencies and accidents.

Conversely, private healthcare in Cyprus mostly depends on financing by outside individual pocket payments and voluntary health insurance, such as independent health practitioners and private partnerships between doctors.

Director of the Health Insurance Organization (HIO), Andreas Demetriades, asserts that, since the public and private work in isolation, this arrangement leads to duplication and waste of resources. Demetriades explains that this funding split results in little continuity of care between the private and public sectors, along with poor communication between doctors.

Furthermore, Demetriades cites other issues that affect the quality of medical care in Cyprus, such as that public sector hospitals are poorly organized and inconvenient for users. Since there is no organized system of primary care, and there is an inadequate regulation of private sector providers, this means that poor-quality clinical services are common.

The most common diseases and leading causes of death in Cyprus are prostate cancer among men and breast cancer among women. In a recent article published in the Cyprus Mail, Health Minister, Yiorgos Pamborides, states that the most common form of cancer in Cyprus is breast cancer “with some 550 new cases and 100 deaths per year.”

Fortunately, after the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, recently opened Cyprus’ first specialized breast center, defining it as “a prerequisite for a modern state [that comes] at a significant point in [the Cypriot] health sector.”

As a result, Anastasiades is optimistic about the center acting as a catalyst for health reform. He informs that the Council of Ministers submitted two bills for the autonomy of public hospitals and the introduction of the national health system to the House of Representatives.

The absence of a universal health care in Cyprus has been debated for decades. However, now that there are bills granting autonomy to public hospitals and taking steps to alter the way the health system is organized, a new health system in Cyprus that is modern and efficient will be within closer reach.

Andrea Philippou

Photo: Flickr

Keeping the Little Guy Safe: Small Farmers’ Insurance in Zimbabwe
Less than 10 years ago there was little to no financial safety for African farmers. Planters, ranchers, herders and nomads were all subject to changing weather cycles and droughts, which could be detrimental to harvests.

If and when disaster struck, farmers and their families often had no access to bank accounts or emergency loans, and insurance was unfathomably expensive — if available at all. Then came the cell phone, and all of that changed.

Africa has seen one of the largest cell phone booms in the world. As soon as mobile devices became affordable, usage across the continent skyrocketed. Rather than trying to work within the poorly developed and expensive banking system, many Africans turned to mobile financial markets to apply for loans and open accounts.

Millions, (12 percent of mobile users) now conduct financial operations using mobile money accounts. This has spurred a huge increase in economic access, thus reducing poverty slowly but surely.

Though they now had bank accounts for emergency funds and access to loans for seeds and equipment, farmers still faced uncertain futures at the hands of Mother Nature. The increased effects of climate change did not settle any anxieties, either.

In Zimbabwe, however, small farmers have finally caught a break with the help of EcoFarmer, a mobile service that provides instant, low-cost crop insurance against droughts and floods.

Seventy percent of Zimbabwe’s economy is still agrarian-based, and the country has only recently begun to recover from a devastating recession. The need for economic stability and protection is crucial.

Users of the service pay the equivalent of 8 cents per day for 125 days and are then guaranteed protection for a harvest. The guarantee is about $100 for every 10 kilograms of seed planted.

The service makes it affordable to even some of the poorest in the world to be insured. Insurance will give these farmers and their families a safety net so that, at the very least, they will not sink into even further poverty.

EcoFarmer also serves as an educational tool to farmers who, until recently, have relied on out-of-date practices and information. Users receive weather updates and forecasts in addition to farming tips, and perhaps most importantly, current market prices for common crops.

With this information, farmers can increase their yields and thus, their incomes. Mobile money services are changing the way the world does business, and in Africa, they are spurring huge amounts of economic growth. With increased mobile money access and services like EcoFarmer, the goal of eliminating poverty once and for all is becoming an ever more feasible reality.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Wired, Econet
Photo: Flickr

Life InsuranceMobile devices are now, quite literally, protecting lives across the developing world. For the first time in history, thousands across the globe and their families are protected from risk through mobile-based health and life insurance providers. Health insurance can be wildly expensive, and many do not have access to agencies or branches that provide it.

Life insurance to many low-income families is a low priority; food, shelter, and medicine are expensive enough. But as with countless other industries, mobile markets and transactions are changing the way that services are performed while also helping to improve the lives of countless living in poverty.

Mobile access is key to the insurance revolution. Cell phones are becoming cheaper and cheaper and governments are quickly building up mobile infrastructure, even in rural areas. Prior to mobile insurance, it was physically impossible for insurance providers to collect micropayments with any consistency, and those insured could not afford large lump sum payments.

However, services like Bima, which operates mainly in Ghana, have changed that. Bima is a life insurance provider that sells coverage for about 2 cents per day. The service offers different coverage options including individual and family plans.

Recently the Swedish-based company has started to offer mobile medical consulting, which enables thousands who live in developing and rural areas to access valuable remedies and diagnoses. Bima is such a powerful tool because it does not only give customers a safety net should the worst happen, it also helps them if emergency situations ever emerge.

In the past 10 years, mobile phones have proven to be one of the largest humanitarian tools in their own right. A decade ago only the richest in Ghana, Indonesia, Guatemala, and many other nations across the world, could afford reliable health insurance and care.

Now thousands are protected with more and more signing up each day. Nearly anyone in the 14 developing countries that Bima covers can now afford hospice care, in-home doctor visits and financial safety in case the unthinkable strikes. Bima and services like it are helping to win the war against poverty one check-up at a time.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Wired, BIMA
Photo: Pixnio

index insuranceThe concept of crop insurance is a well-established practice in developed countries: in anticipation of natural disasters or other impediments to good crop yields, farmers purchase insurance to cover the cost of lost revenue.

Yet traditional agriculture insurance is either unavailable or overly expensive in many developing countries, leaving small-scale farmers, particularly women, vulnerable to natural disasters.

Nevertheless, recent expansions of index insurance programs, in particular the Global Index Insurance Facility, are enabling small-scale women farmers across Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean to adequately ensure their crops at affordable prices.

Unlike traditional insurance, index insurance “pays out benefits on the basis of a predetermined index for loss of assets and investments … without requiring the services of insurance claims assessors,” the World Bank reports.

More specifically, “a statistical index is developed before the start of the insurance period to measure deviations from normal for such parameters as rainfall, temperature, seismic activity, wind speed, crop yield or livestock mortality rates.”

Since 2009, GIIF, a program managed by the World Bank Group, has been leading and supporting index-insurance programs across the developing world. In collaboration with partners like MicroEnsure and Kilimo Salama (now ACRE), GIIF often aggregates farmers into groups and enrolls them into insurance programs—an approach both commercially feasible for insurers and empowering for women farmers.

Recent statistics indicate that women farmers in the developing world are at particular risk for agricultural instability. A recent study by the World Bank Group and the ONE Campaign found that although roughly half of the farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa are women, women farmers in Africa produce between 13 and 25 percent less than their male counterparts.

The World Bank Group and the ONE Campaign attributed this difference largely to women farmers’ lack of access to credit and other financial tools.

According to estimates by the Food and Agricultural Organization, if women farmers worldwide had the same access to resources as their male counterparts, “their yields could increase by as much as 30 percent, resulting in 150 million fewer people going hungry.”

GIIF’s index insurance programs are already reaping benefits in many developing countries. In Kenya, a payout initiated by the GIIF program during a drought kept thousands of women farmers in business, allowing them to purchase seeds and fertilizer for the next growing season.

In Haiti, a GIIF partner is offering weather index insurance to 70,000 clients, mostly women farmers who provide essential goods and services to communities.

The World Bank reports that overall, these index insurance programs have helped close the gender gap for farmers in the developing world—a critical step in fighting hunger, tackling malnutrition, and boosting global food security.

Katrina Beedy

Sources: World Bank 1,  World Bank 2
Photo: Siani