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COVID-19 purchasing adjustments: Insights from 8 middle-income countries - P4H Network

COVID-19 purchasing adjustments: Insights from 8 middle-income countries

Journal of Health Policy and Planning (Oxford University Press) article examines COVID-19’s impact on health purchasing in eight middle-income countries, revealing adjustments in benefit packages and payment methods amid financing challenges and concerns about sustainability.

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered several changes in countries’ health purchasing arrangements to accompany the adjustments in service delivery in order to meet the urgent and additional demands for COVID-19-related services. However, evidence on how these adjustments have played out in low- and middle-income countries is scarce. This paper provides a synthesis of a multi-country study of the adjustments in purchasing arrangements for the COVID-19 health sector response in eight middle-income countries (Armenia, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Philippines, Romania and Ukraine).

The authors use secondary data assembled by country teams, as well as applied thematic analysis to examine the adjustments made to funding arrangements, benefits packages, provider payments, contracting, information management systems and governance arrangements as well as related implementation challenges. The findings show that all countries in the study adjusted their health purchasing arrangements to varying degrees. While the majority of countries expanded their benefit packages and several adjusted payment methods to provide selected COVID-19 services, only half could provide these services free of charge. Many countries also streamlined their processes for contracting and accrediting health providers, thereby reducing administrative hurdles.

In conclusion, it was important for the countries to adjust their health purchasing arrangements so that they could adequately respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, but in some countries financing challenges resulted in issues with equity and access. However, it is uncertain whether these adjustments can and will be sustained over time, even where they have potential to contribute to making purchasing more strategic to improve efficiency, quality and equitable access in the long run.