Effect of Health Insurance on the Use and Provision of Maternal Health Services and Maternal and Neonatal Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review

Alison B. Comfort, Lauren A. Peterson, Laurel E. Hatt

Abstract


Financial barriers can affect timely access to maternal health services. Health insurance can influence the use and quality of these services and potentially improve maternal and neonatal health outcomes. We conducted a systematic review of the evidence on health insurance and its effects on the use and provision of maternal health services and on maternal and neonatal health outcomes in middle- and low-income countries. Studies were identified through a literature search in key databases and consultation with experts in healthcare financing and maternal health. Twenty-nine articles met the review criteria of focusing on health insurance and its effect on the use or quality of maternal health services, or maternal and neonatal health outcomes. Sixteen studies assessed demand-side effects of insurance, eight focused on supply-side effects, and the remainder addressed both. Geographically, the studies provided evidence from sub-Saharan Africa (n=11), Asia (n=9), Latin America (n=8), and Turkey. The studies included examples from national or social insurance schemes (n=7), government-run public health insurance schemes (n=4), community-based health insurance schemes (n=11), and private insurance (n=3). Half of the studies used econometric analyses while the remaining provided descriptive statistics or qualitative results. There is relatively consistent evidence that health insurance is positively correlated with the use of maternal health services. Only four studies used methods that can establish this causal relationship. Six studies presented suggestive evidence of overprovision of caesarean sections in response to providers’ payment incentives through health insurance. Fewstudies focused on the relationship between health insurance and the quality of maternal health services or maternal and neonatal health outcomes. The available evidence on the quality and health outcomes is inconclusive, given the differences in measurement, contradictory findings, and statistical limitations. Consistent with economic theories, the studies identified a positive relationship between health insurance and the use of maternal health services. However, more rigorous causal methods are needed to identify the extent to which the use of these services increases among the insured. Better measurement of quality and the use of cross-country analyses would solidify the evidence on the impact of insurance on the quality of maternal health services and maternal and neonatal health outcomes. 

Key words: Access to healthcare; Antenatal care; Facility-based deliveries; Health insurance; Maternal health; Maternity benefits; Postnatal care; Quality of service


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