Research

Primary healthcare delivery models for uninsured low-income earners during the transition to National Health Insurance: Perspectives of private South African providers

S Girdwood, K Govender, L Long, J Miot, G Meyer-Rath

Abstract


Background. The proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) system aims to re-engineer primary healthcare (PHC) provision in South Africa, with strategic purchasing of services from both private and public sector providers by the NHI Fund. Currently, while access to the private sector is primarily restricted to high-income insured earners, an important proportion of the low-income segment is choosing to utilise private PHC providers over public sector clinics. In recent years, a number of private providers in SA have established innovative models of PHC delivery that aim to expand access beyond the insured population and provide affordable access to good-quality PHC services.

Objectives. To describe the current landscape of private PHC clinic models targeting low-income, uninsured earners and the role they might play during the transition to NHI.

Methods. Key informant interviews were conducted with representatives of a sample of private PHC provider organisations providing services to low-income, uninsured earners with clinics – beyond the traditional private sector general practitioner model. Organisations were asked to describe their service delivery model, the population it serves, the PHC services offered and the financing model. Written responses were captured in Excel and coded manually, and the results were thematically analysed.

Results. Of the eight organisations identified, most have actively engaged strategies to ensure the provision of affordable quality care. Within these strategies, scale is an important pivot in spreading fixed costs across more paying patients as well as task shifting to lower cadres of healthcare workers. Access to government medicines and laboratory tests is an important factor in achieving lower costs per patient. Together, these strategies support the sustainability of these models.

Conclusions. We have provided an exploratory analysis of private PHC service delivery models serving the low-income, uninsured patient population, establishing factors that increase the efficiency of such service delivery, and delineating combinations of strategies that could make these models successful both during the transition to NHI and during full-scale NHI implementation. A clear regulatory framework would act as a catalyst for further innovation and facilitate contracting. These existing models can enhance and complement government provision and could be scaled up to meet the needs of expanding PHC under NHI. Understanding these models and the space and parameters in which they operate is important.

 


Authors' affiliations

S Girdwood, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Health Economics and Epidemiology Research Office (HE2RO), Wits Health Consortium, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

K Govender, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Health Economics and Epidemiology Research Office (HE2RO), Wits Health Consortium, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

L Long, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Health Economics and Epidemiology Research Office (HE2RO), Wits Health Consortium, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Department of Global Health, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Mass., USA

J Miot, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Health Economics and Epidemiology Research Office (HE2RO), Wits Health Consortium, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

G Meyer-Rath, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Health Economics and Epidemiology Research Office (HE2RO), Wits Health Consortium, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Department of Global Health, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Mass., USA

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Keywords

Universal health coverage; South Africa; Primary healthcare; Uninsured market; Models of care; Private providers

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2019;109(10):771-783. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2019.v109i10.13930

Article History

Date submitted: 2019-09-30
Date published: 2019-09-30

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