This week: Health insurance for the poor

A topic of much recent debate in the U.S., extending health insurance to the poor in the developing world is getting new attention this week.

The September issue of the [WHO bulletin]( spotlights the contributions of two actors in expanding coverage to the poor: the governments, who can, and often do, play a huge role in ensuring access to health care through robust national insurance schemes, and microfinance organizations, who can potentially provide financial resources to the poor when public options are not enough.

[Brazil’s march toward universal coverage]( takes us through the positive effects and current struggles of the country’s health reforms, including the creation of the Family Health Program, an important part of the Unified Health System through which 97 million Brazilians seek care. The reforms have significantly improved coverage since 1988 – but is the system underfunded?

The benefits of microfinance for economic development have long been proven, but its ability to protect health is still relatively underexplored. [Protecting health: thinking small]( offers a look at how microcredit, microsavings and micro-insurance can be small, but effective, financial tools to help the poor afford health care. The article balances the type of health expenditure against the appropriate financial tool, arguing that microcredit and microsavings are most suitable in preventative care or in the case of minor illness, and micro-insurance is best used for relatively high-cost and low-likelihood events such as chronic diseases or severe illness.

Interested in micro-insurance for health? Join the [SHOPS initiative]( on Tuesday, September 14, in an [online discussion]( that will focus on the opportunities in selecting the right micro health insurance model and the potential in creating public-private partnerships for health.