Does Microinsurance Help the Poor? Evidence from the Targeted Health Microinsurance Program in Vietnam 2004-2008

Examining the effects of a targeted health microinsurance program in Vietnam
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This study evaluates the Health Care Fund for the Poor (HCFP), a targeted health microinsurance program which was initiated in Vietnam in 2003. It uses data from the Vietnam Household Living Standard Surveys 2004, 2006, and 2008 to estimate the effects of participation in the HCFP program on a variety of health-related outcomes and financial health risk indicators. The study addresses the possible selection bias of insurance participation by means of fixed-effects models and an instrument variable method. Findings include:

  • Participation in the HCFP program reduced the out-of-pocket health care expenditure of poor participants;
  • Participation in HCFP increased the intensity with which the poor sought health care and regular check-ups in public health facilities;
  • HCFP helped reduce the incidence of catastrophic spending when dealing with adverse health events.

The study confirms that HCFP improved health care utilization at public hospitals by diverting the insured away from seeking health care from the private sector and resorting to self-medication.