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WHO Report: Out-of-Pocket Health Costs make healthcare unaffordable for European Households - P4H Network

WHO Report: Out-of-Pocket Health Costs make healthcare unaffordable for European Households

WHO/Europe report unveils the concerning situation where numerous households in the region face impoverishment due to healthcare expenses, emphasizing the critical need for reform

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a comprehensive report titled “Can people afford to pay for health care? Evidence on financial protection in 40 countries in Europe (2023)” shedding light on the financial hardships faced by millions of individuals due to out-of-pocket payments for healthcare in Europe. The report emphasizes that even in Europe’s wealthiest nations, expenditures on medicines, medical products such as hearing aids, and dental care are pushing between 1% and 12% of households into poverty or exacerbating their financial struggles.

Furthermore, the report reveals that between 1% and 20% of households experience catastrophic health spending, a figure that climbs to between 2% and 69% among the poorest fifth of the population. Catastrophic spending on healthcare often leads to households being unable to meet basic needs like food, housing, and heating. Notably, these financial burdens are primarily attributed to expenses incurred in primary-care settings, indicating significant gaps in primary-care coverage across numerous countries.

Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, stressed the urgency of transforming health systems to ensure equitable access to healthcare without causing financial distress. The report suggests five policy choices to enhance financial protection and move closer to Universal Health Coverage (UHC), including de-linking entitlement to healthcare from social health insurance contributions, sparingly applying user charges for healthcare, and ensuring adequate funding for healthcare coverage policies.

Additionally, the report underscores the need to address trust deficits within health systems by actively involving patients in their care, supporting and valuing health workers, and fostering inclusive health policies in collaboration with policymakers. The WHO urges countries to prioritize these reforms to rebuild trust and ensure that healthcare is accessible and affordable for all.

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