An impact evaluation of medical insurance for poor in Georgia: preliminary results and policy implications

posted Apr 23, 2015, 7:22 AM by Karine Gatellier

George Gotsadze, Akaki Zoidze, Natia Rukhadze, Natia Shengelia and Nino Chkhaidze

Objective The objective of this article is to assess the impact of the new health financing reform in Georgia—‘medical insurance for the poor (MIP)’—which uses private insurance companies and delivers state-subsidized health benefits to the poorest groups of the Georgian population.

Methods To evaluate the reform we looked at access to health care services and financial protection against health care costs, which are two key dimensions proposed for the universal coverage plans. The data from two nationally representative Health Utilization and Expenditure Surveys (2007 and 2010) were used, and a difference-in-difference method of evaluation was applied.

Findings The MIP was not found to have a significant impact on service utilization growth nationwide, but in the capital city the MIP insured were 12% more likely to use formal health services and 7.6% more likely to use hospitals as compared with other areas of the country. The MIP impact on out-of-pocket health expenditures was greater in reducing costs of accessing services. The cost reductions were sizable and more pronounced among the poorest. Finally, the MIP significantly increased the odds of obtaining free benefits by insured individuals as compared with the control group. Such an increase was most noticeable for the poorest third of the population.

Conclusions Marginal changes in access to services and the geographically diverse impact of the MIP on service utilization points to other factors affecting health-seeking behaviour of the insured. These other factors include private insurer behaviour that may have used strategies for reducing claims and managing utilization. Equity impact of the MIP and improved financial protection, especially for the poor, are benefits to be retained by government policies when universal health coverage is rolled out nationwide and all citizens will be covered. The role of private insurance companies as financial intermediaries of the publicly funded programme needs further evaluation before moving forward.

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