December 17, 2012
The UN’s adoption of a resolution on affordable universal healthcare as momentous, the British newspaper The Guardian states. It was adopted by consensus in the UN General Assembly on Wednesday 12 December.
The resolution urges member states to develop health systems that avoid user faces and promote risk-sharing in order to prevent catastrophic health-care spending that might lead to impoverishment. According to The Guardian, there was unusually wide support for the resolution. The Rockefeller Foundation, which has funded research on universal health systems, states that 150 million people worldwide face high healthcare costs, which push around 25 million households into poverty each year. More than 3 billion people have to pay for healthcare themselves, forcing many – particularly women and children – to choose between healthcare and education.
Ceri Averill, Oxfam’s health policy adviser, said that the vote shows real public commitment to universal healthcare. “We can hold member states to account because of the resolution.” Issues that need to be solved in order to achieve universal health coverage are whether health systems can do without direct user fees and whether such a system should be financed through universal insurance coverage through or general taxation.
According to The Guardian, Thailand is considered a pioneer in developing universal health coverage. This country introduced free universal healthcare at the point of delivery in 2002 and has shown the concept is not out of reach of middle-income countries. “Around 99% of the Thai population is covered through a comprehensive healthcare package. It ranges from health prevention and primary care, to hospitalisation due to traffic accidents, to more expensive services such as radiotherapy and access to antiretroviral therapy treatment for people with HIV.” Other countries that have made great advances in this regard are Indonesia, the Philippines and China. They all have rolled out insurance-based health coverage which includes almost their entire populations. Poorer countries, however, will have to rely on external help to extend affordable healthcare.
Source: UN adopts ‘momentous’ resolution on universal healthcare. General assembly urges countries to launch affordable healthcare systems that cover all their citizens. Mark Tran, The Guardian, 13 December 2012
More information (UN website)