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And check out the open online course on priority-setting, “What to finance in health and at what price,” which discusses two key strategies to improve the efficiency of public spending on health: explicit prioritization in health and instruments to achieve more affordable prices for medicines.
Universal health coverage (UHC) is now firmly on the global health agenda, and carries with it the ambitious goal of providing “access to key promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health interventions for all at an affordable cost.” So where do we start? A critical first step to delivering on the aspirations of UHC is deciding which services and policies to prioritize and make available. While resources for health care are growing, they are not infinite and hard choices must be made.
The New England Journal of Medicine recently published the results of “the Oregon experiment” based on the 2008 US Medicaid program expansion in Oregon. The study is one of very few randomized control trials on publicly-subsidized health insurance that exists to guide health policy, and found what some commentators considered a disappointing result: while health care utilization increased and households were protected from financial hardship, expanding Medicaid coverage had “no significant impact on measured physical health outcomes over a 2-year period.”
This week the World Health Organization held a major international meeting on universal health coverage (UHC), with Director General Margaret Chan reaffirming her regard for universal coverage “as the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer.” While the term “universal” signals that the entire population will be “covered,” an unanswered question is: covered with what? Another way to put the question: What health benefits or interventions would represent coverage, taking into account UHC’s implicit goals of improved health, equity and financial protection?