Interview with the organizers of “Vouchers for Health”
With the sponsorship and coordination of the Packard Foundation, KfW, and USAID/India, Tania Dmytraczenko and Mursaleena Islam at PSP-One organized the “Vouchers for Health” conference held outside of New Delhi April 12th and 13th. They agreed to a THDblog interview about the conference’s impact.
BEN: What was the inspiration behind the conference? Could you describe the conference goals?
TANIA & MURSALEENA: Several new voucher programs are being considered or have recently started in a number of Asian countries and the sponsors felt that it was good time to share experiences with other existing voucher programs in health. Although voucher programs are increasingly being funded in developing countries, there has been little dialogue between different implementers on the success and limitations of these programs. The goal of this technical workshop was to provide a forum for discussion and exchange of innovative ideas on voucher schemes to improve health service delivery.
BEN: Looking back, what lessons or key points emerged that ought to be carried forward?
TANIA & MURSALEENA: There were several issues that came out of those two days in Gurgaon.
— Demand-side financing options, such as voucher schemes, provide an important alternative to traditional supply-side financing: vouchers can be used to target underserved populations and voucher redemption rate provide one quick feedback about their use.
— Vouchers can be used to stimulate demand for important but under-consumed services and can be used to engage private-sector providers. Note that in developing countries, many poor seek care in the private sector and pay high out-of-pocket payments.
— Vouchers for a needed service may not be sufficient to increase utilization if there are other barriers to accessing that service. For example, distance and transport costs may be a significant factor and thus the voucher may need to cover transport costs as well.
— Ensuring quality of care is important and often difficult when contracting with providers for a voucher scheme.
BEN: From your perspective what important points or issues remained unresolved?
TANIA & MURSALEENA: There have not been enough rigorous evaluations of existing voucher programs for us to learn about what works and what does not work. We encourage more rigorous evaluations and are waiting for results from some recently-started voucher programs. Many of the voucher programs we learnt about in the workshop are pilot programs – there will be challenges in taking these programs to scale and lessons learned from scaling up will need to be shared.