fbpx Financing and provision of healthcare for two billion people in low-income nations: Is the cooperative healthcare model a solution? | Harvard Kennedy School

Additional Authors:

  • William C. Hsiao
  • Winnie Chi-Man Yip


2023, Paper: "The international consensus in support of universal health coverage (UHC), though commendable, thus far lacks a clear mechanism to finance and deliver accessible and effective basic healthcare to the two billion rural residents and informal workers of low- and lower-middle-income countries (LLMICs). Importantly, the two preferred financing modes for UHC, general tax revenue and social health insurance, are often infeasible for LLMICs. We identify from historical examples a community-based model that we argue shows promise as a solution to this problem. This model, which we call Cooperative Healthcare (CH), is characterized by community-based risk-pooling and governance and prioritizes primary care. CH leverages communities' existing social capital, such that even those for whom the private benefit of enrolling in a CH scheme is outweighed by the cost may choose to enroll (given sufficient social capital). For CH to be scalable, it needs to demonstrate that it can organize delivery of accessible and reasonable-quality primary healthcare that people value, with management accountable to the communities themselves through structures that people trust, combined with government legitimacy. Once LLMICs with CH programs have industrialized sufficiently to make universal social health insurance feasible, CH schemes can be rolled into such universal programs. We defend cooperative healthcare's suitability for this bridging role and urge LLMIC governments to launch experiments testing it out, with careful adaptation to local conditions."