Effects of User Fee Exemptions on the Provision and Use of Maternal Health Services: A Review of Literature

Resource Type: Journal Article (Literature Review)
Authors: Laurel E. Hatt, Marty Makinen, Supriya Madhavan, Claudia M. Conlon
Published: 12/31/2013

Resource Description:

User fee removal has been put forward as an approach to increasing priority health service utilization, reducing impoverishment, and ultimately reducing maternal and neonatal mortality. However, user fees are a source of facility revenue in many low-income countries, often used for purchasing drugs and supplies and paying incentives to health workers. This paper reviews evidence on the effects of user fee exemptions on maternal health service utilization, service provision, and outcomes, including both supply-side and demand-side effects. Studies were identified through a USAID commissioned call for evidence, key word search, and screening process. This review highlights potential and documented benefits (increased use of maternity services) as well as risks (decreased provider motivation and quality) of user fee exemption policies for maternal health services. Governments should link user fee exemption policies with the replacement of lost revenue for facilities as well as broader health system improvements, including facility upgrades, ensured supply of needed inputs, and improved human resources for health. Removing user fees may increase uptake but will not reduce mortality proportionally if the quality of facility-based care is poor. More rigorous evaluations of both demand- and supply-side effects of mature fee exemption programmes are needed.



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