Bangladesh launches health insurance scheme thanks to OPM project
With funding from KfW, OPM supported the Government of Bangladesh in the successful launch of a pilot social health protection programme.
Bangladesh took this important step towards universal health coverage (UHC) in March with the start of this pilot programme to extend free health care to poorest households. The programme, titled Shasthyo Suroksha Karmashuchi (SSK), will see 100,000 cards given out – one per family – that will enable the holder and their family to receive free healthcare. Treatment for 50 of the most common ailments are covered, and can be received at the sub-district or district hospitals.
Out-of-pocket expenses are currently very high in Bangladesh, making up 63% of health care costs. This means that becoming ill or having an accident can be financially crippling for poor households. Indeed, recent research shows that over six million people face economic hardship each year due to the cost of health care.
A consortium—led by OPM in partnership with m4h and the University of Dhaka—is providing technical assistance in the design and implementation of this programme. They are working closely with the Health Economics Unit of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh, who contracted a local insurance company to implement the piloting of the insurance scheme in three upazilas (sub-districts) of Tangail district.
The Government of Bangladesh plans to ensure all citizens are covered by health insurance by 2032, with the poorest being covered first and their premiums paid by the government. This pilot scheme is the first concrete step towards that goal, and will be progressively rolled out to other regions and socio-economic groups in the coming years if the piloting is successful.
Dr Rashid Zaman, consultant in OPM’s health team and consortium project manager, said:
‘With out-of-pocket expenses for health care so high, the misfortune of sickness can render already-struggling families destitute. But by working closely with our government partners, we have been able to design a scheme that will massively reduce the financial burden of health care for thousands of Bangladeshi households. The pilot will also create a bank of evidence to draw on when the government decides how best to scale up insurance coverage.’