R Archana, Sitanshu Sekhar Kar, KC Premarajan, Subitha Lakshminarayanan
Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry, India
Background: As a measure to reduce the out of pocket health spending in our country, the high level expert group on Universal Health Coverage recommends a National Health Package free of cost to all. Whether availability of services free of cost, will reduce out of pocket expenditure? Aim: To assess this, we studied the out of pocket health spending among the households of a Ramanathpuram, a village in Puducherry, where surplus health services are available free of cost. Settings and Design: An exploratory study was conducted in by 200 purposively selected households of Ramanathpuram, during the months of March-April 2012. Materials and Methods: Information was sought on socio-demographic details (age, gender, and income), expenditure incurred during OPD visits, follow up for chronic diseases, and hospitalization using a pretested questionnaire. Recall periods of 1 and 3 months were considered for OPD visits and hospitalizations, respectively. Results: Of the total 935 individuals from the 200 households included, 51.3% (480) were men and 455 (48.7%) were women. A total of 231 visits to health care facilities were recorded from 143 (71.5%) households, of which 153 (66.2%) were for acute illness and 68 (29.4%) for follow up of chronic diseases and 10 (4.3%) for hospitalization. The mean per visit expenditure for acute illness, chronic diseases, and hospitalization were INR72.7 ± 143.6, 135.7 ± 196.2, and 1340 ± 1192.9, respectively. Government facilities were availed for 175 (75.7%) visits. Majority of those who incurred health expenditure for acute illness (80.4%) and utilized the private sector for acute illness (78.4%) were from higher socioeconomic class (P = 0.001). Conclusion: Majority (58.1%) of the households did not incur health care expenditure. Public health care facilities were preferred (75.5%) for seeking care. Availability of services free of cost reduces out of pocket expenditure among non-hospitalized cases.
Keywords: Health care, out of pocket expenditure, rural households