Coping with Health Care Expenses Among Poor Households: Evidence from a Rural Commune in Vietnam
Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 74, No. 5, pp. 724-733, 2012
10 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2009 Last revised: 16 Feb 2012
Date Written: December 2011
With the 1980s “Doi Moi” economic reforms, Vietnam transitioned from state-funded health care to a privatized user fee system. Out-of-pocket payments became a major source of funding for treatments received at both public and private health facilities. We studied coping strategies used by residents of Dai Dong, a rural commune of Hanoi, for paying health care costs, assessing the effects of such costs on economic and health stability.
We developed a 2008 survey of 706 households (166 poor, 184 near-poor, 356 non-poor; 100% response rate). Outcome measures were reported episodes of illness; inpatient, outpatient, and self-treatments; out-of-pocket expenditures; and funding sources for health care costs. Households of all income levels borrowed to pay for inpatient treatments; loans are also more heavily used by the poor and near-poor than the non-poor for outpatient treatments. Compared to low cost treatments, the use of loans is intensified for extremely high cost health treatments for all poverty levels, but especially for the poor and near-poor. The likelihood of reducing food consumption to pay for extremely high cost treatment versus low cost treatments increased most for the poor in both inpatient and outpatient contexts.
Decreased funding and increased costs in health care rendered Dai Dong’s population vulnerable to the consequences of detrimental coping strategies such as debt and food reduction. Future reforms should focus on obviating these funding measures among at-risk populations.
Keywords: Vietnam, Coping strategies, Health financing, Catastrophic expenditures, Out-of-pocket payments, Health care expenses, Poverty, Rural
JEL Classification: I11, I18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation