From double shock to double recovery: implications and options for health financing in the time of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a double shock - health and economic. As of March 1, 2021, COVID-19 has cost more than 2.5 million lives and triggered an economic recession surpassing any economic downturn since World War II. Part I of this paper explores the impact of this current macro-fiscal outlook on the three primary sources of health spending. Drawing on experiences from previous economic crises, scenario analyses suggest a fall in government per capita spending on health in 2021 and 2022 unless governments make bold choices to increase the share of health in general government spending. The projected drop in per capita government spending on health is expected to coincide with lower levels of household out-of-pocket spending on health and a possible decline in development assistance for health (DAH). Part II of the paper discusses policy options to meet the spending needs in health. These options encompass strategies to make fiscal adjustments work and channel funds where they are most needed, as well as policies to stabilize the balance sheets of social health insurance (SHI) schemes. The paper explains how the health sector can play an active role in expanding fiscal space, contributing to tax reforms, most importantly pro-health taxes, and mobilizing and absorbing external financing, including debt relief.