IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Waivers and exemptions for health services in developing countries

  • Bitran, Ricardo
  • Giedion, Ursula
Registered author(s):

    In response to shortages in public budgets for government health services, many developing countries around the world, have adopted formal, or informal systems of user fees for health care. In most countries, user fee proceeds seldom represent more than 15 percent of total costs in hospitals, and health centers, but they tend to account for a significant share of the resources required to pay for non-personnel costs. The problem with user fees is that the lack of provisions to confer partial, or full waivers to the poor, often results in inequity in access to medical care. The dilemma, then, is how to make a much needed system of user fees, compatible with the goal of preserving equitable access to services. Different countries have tried different approaches. Those which have carefully designed, and implemented waiver systems (e.g., Thailand and Indonesia) have had much greater success in terms of benefits incidence, than countries that have improvised such systems (Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe). Key to the success of a waiver system is its financing. Systems that compensate providers for the revenue forgone from granting exemptions (Thailand, Indonesia, and Cambodia) have been more successful than those who expect the provider to absorb the cost of exemptions (Kenya). Where waiver system exist, performance will improve with the timeliness of the reimbursement. Other success factors include the widespread dissemination among potential beneficiaries, about waiver availability, and procedures; the awarding of financial support to poor patients for non-fee costs of care, such as food and transportation (as in Cambodia); and, the existence of clear criteria for the granting of waivers, thereby reducing confusion, and ambiguity among those responsible for managing the system, and among potential recipients. The review examines various approaches taken by countries, but assessing their relative practical merits is difficult, as the evidence is scattered and mixed.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Social Protection Discussion Papers with number 25987.

    in new window

    Date of creation: 31 Mar 2003
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:wbk:hdnspu:25987
    Contact details of provider: Postal: 1818 H Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20433
    Phone: (202) 477-1234
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:hdnspu:25987. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Raiden C. Dillard)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.