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Achieving universal health coverage (UHC) means implementing policies to ensure that all people receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship. Most importantly, UHC is a critical and often cost-effective element in any strategy to address poverty and social exclusion, key pillars of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

Across the world, governments increasingly recognize that public financing mechanisms hold the key to UHC. Here the two main sources of funds are general government revenues (tax financing) and social health insurance contributions. Both of these mechanisms involve pre-payments into a pooled fund for equitable distribution and, most importantly, compulsory contributions. This ensures that the healthy and wealthy cross-subsidize the costs of health services for the sick and the poor, which is central to achieving UHC.

There are many estimates on how much financing is needed. ODA and other forms of aid will be critical to achieve UHC in the least developed countries (LDCs) until such time as they are able to raise sufficient funds domestically.