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Universal health coverage in European Member States; not quite there! Making the economic case for health inclusion and equity.


Organiser: European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies

Moderator: Joseph Figueras, European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies

Europe is fully committed to achieving universal health coverage (UHC) – in principle. The European Union, the WHO Regional Office for Europe and their Member States support UHC as a core element of the Health Sustainable Development Goal 3. The WHO’s 2018 ministerial conference in Tallinn championed health inclusion, together with investment and innovation, as central guiding principles for health systems.

In practice, many European countries are still a long way from securing coverage, access and financial protection for everyone. Many of their people (including most particularly the poor and vulnerable populations, refugees and marginalized groups) still face substantial challenges:

  • In seven EU countries more than 10% of low income people report unmet need;
  • Out-of-pocket payments account for more than 15% of total expenditure in three out of four countries in the European region; and in one in three this rises to 30 % or more;
  • In a quarter of countries, out-of-pocket payments are responsible for catastrophic expenditure in over 5% of households; with payment for medicines and inpatient care being the main cause of household impoverishment.

The plenary will explore the challenges of UHC. More than that, it will address the economic case for universal coverage – so both why financial protection helps avoid impoverishment, and why this matters. It will also show that better access is not just about improving levels of health or fairness or well-being but also about increasing economic productivity. It will offer evidence that may help reinforce the notional and principled commitment to universality and push it higher up the agenda of policy makers, including those in ministries of finance.

The keynotes and panelists are from academia, WHO EURO, the European Commission and senior policy making. They will lead a discussion of the evidence and policy strategies that can help Europe to reach the UHC 2030 target.

Keynote speakers:

  • Rifat Atun, Director, Global Health Systems Cluster. Harvard School of Public Health, United States
  • Sarah Thomson, Senior Health Financing Specialist, WHO Barcelona Office for Health Systems Strengthening, WHO Regional Office for Europe

Panellists:

  • Isabel de la Mata, Principal Advisor, European Commission, DG SANTE
  • Clemens Martin Auer, Special Envoy for Health, Ministry of Health. President Health Forum Gastein, Austria
  • Rifat Atun, Director, Global Health Systems Cluster. Harvard School of Public Health, United States
  • Sarah Thomson, Senior Health Financing Specialist, WHO Barcelona Office for Health Systems Strengthening, WHO Regional Office for Europe