Can people afford to pay for health care? New evidence on financial protection in Austria (2018)

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This series of country-based reviews monitors financial protection in European health systems by assessing the impact of out-of-pocket payments on household living standards.

Financial protection is central to universal health coverage and a core dimension of health system performance. What is the policy issue? People experience financial hardship when out-of-pocket payments – formal and informal payments made at the point of using any health care good or service – are large in relation to a household’s ability to pay. Out-of-pocket payments may not be a problem if they are small or paid by people who can afford them, but even small out-of-pocket payments can cause financial hardship for poor people and those who have to pay for long-term treatment such as medicines for chronic illness. Where health systems fail to provide adequate financial protection, people may not have enough money to pay for health care or to meet other basic needs. As a result, lack of financial protection may reduce access to health care, undermine health status, deepen poverty and exacerbate health and socioeconomic inequalities. Because all health systems involve a degree of out-of-pocket payment, financial hardship can be a problem in any country.

Each review is based on analysis of data from household budget surveys.