Local and international officials are trying to find more ways to reduce Barbadians’ “out-of-pocket” spending on healthcare and reform the sector.
Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation Representative Dr Amalia del Riego expressed their intentions on Tuesday morning during a workshop on the International Review of Health Financing Reform Options.
Out-of-pocket spending refers to direct payments, in this case for healthcare, made by individuals, even if it may be reimbursed later.
“In Barbados, out-of-pocket expenditure is relatively high. On average, it accounts for 47 per cent of all sources of health financing. High out-of-pocket expenditure is a red flag. . . as it is an indication of barriers to accessing health services, and of potential financial risks to individuals and households due to health events that may lead to impoverishment and catastrophic expenditure.
“Addressing these challenges will require consistent and coordinated action, a systemic approach that promotes coherence between programmes, policies and institutions, and leadership at every level,” del Riego said.
Participants in the PAHO/WHO workshop on International Review of Health Financing Reform Options. (Picture by Tonia Atwell)
She made those comments before several local officials including Minister of Health the Most Honourable Dr Jerome Walcott, who also is also attending the four-day stakeholder consultation.
While pointing out that public expenditure in health could be higher, she said they were willing to assist the country and the region improve in this area.
“Most Caribbean governments, including Barbados, do understand the importance of health financing, particularly when it comes to gaps and needs in funding. There is consensus that public expenditure in health is relatively low in the Caribbean – it averages 3.1 per cent of GDP… and in Barbados, public spending in health represents only 2.8 per cent of GDP. This level of spending is below the 6 per cent target set by the PAHO Member States back in 2014.
“Increased and improved sustainable public financing for health, with equity and efficiency, is a necessary condition to advance towards universal health. It is also an important strategy to decrease out-of-pocket expenditure, which is largely payments borne by patients when seeking care. Therefore our international experts are here to engage in a constructive dialogue. They will challenge you this week to find solutions that can support policy development processes and reforms here in Barbados,” Del Riego said. (TG)