The inequalities and determinants of Households’ Distress Financing on Out-off-Pocket Health expenditure in Malaysia

Journal: BMC Public Health,
Author(s): Nor Zam Azihan Mohd Hassan, Mohd Shaiful Jefri Mohd Nor Sham Kunusagaran, Nur Amalina Zaimi, Farhana Aminuddin, Fathullah Iqbal Ab Rahim, Suhana Jawahir & Zulkefly Abdul Karim
Link: bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-022-12834-5


Out-of-pocket (OOP) payments for healthcare services potentially have severe consequences on households, especially among the poor. Under certain circumstances, healthcare payments are financed through selling household assets, or borrowings. This certainly could influence households’ decision, which likely resorts to forgoing healthcare services. Thus, the focal point of this study is aimed to identify the inequalities and determinants of distress financing among households in Malaysia.

This study used secondary data from the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019, a national cross-sectional household survey that used a two-stage stratified random sampling design involving 5,146 households. The concentration curve and concentration index were used to determine the economic inequalities in distress financing. Whereas, the determinants of distress financing were identified using the modified Poisson regression model.

The prevalence of borrowing without interest was the highest (13.86%), followed by borrowing with interest (1.03%) while selling off assets was the lowest (0.87%). Borrowing without interest was highest among rural (16.21%) and poor economic status (23.34%). The distribution of distress financing was higher among the poor, with a concentration index of -0.245. The modified Poisson regression analysis revealed that the poor, middle, rich, and richest had 0.57, 0.58, 0.40 and 0.36 times the risk to develop distress financing than the poorest socio-economic group. Whereas, the presence of one and two or more elderly were associated with a 1.94 and 1.59 times risk of experiencing distress financing than households with no elderly members. The risk of developing distress financing was also 1.28 and 1.58 times higher among households with one and two members receiving inpatient care in the past 12 months compared to none.

The findings implied that the improvement of health coverage should be emphasized to curtail the prevalence of distress financing, especially among those caring for the elderly, requiring admission to hospitals, and poor socio-economic groups. This study could be of interest to policymakers to help achieve and sustain health coverage for all.