Identifying beneficiaries for user fee waivers: ethical challenges in public health

Geeta Pardeshi

Abstract

Shortages in the public budget for government health services led to the adoption of a system of user fees for healthcare in many developing countries. The Government of India introduced user charges in public health services on a pilot basis as a part of its health sector reforms in the late 1990s and early 2000. A major criticism of user charges relates to ‘equity’. Full waiver of the fees has been recommended for the poor to ensure equitable access to services. Waiver is a right conferred on an individual that entitles him/her to obtain health services in certain health facilities at no direct charge or at a reduced price.

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