Twikirize JM, O'Brien C. Why Ugandan rural households are opting to pay community health insurance rather than use the free healthcare services
Uganda reintroduced free healthcare in 2001, but today, nine years later, less than 30 per cent of the population are using these services. This study investigated why rural households were under-utilising the government's free health services and turning to community health insurance instead. A survey carried out on 260 randomly selected households was triangulated with qualitative data gained from 3 focus groups and 12 in-depth interviews. The findings showed that 21 per cent of the households always accessed the government's free health services, while 79 per cent used private health services. The reasons given were poor quality services, including frequent drug stock-outs, unmotivated and insufficiently trained health personnel, and overcrowding. Factors influencing enrolment in community health insurance included easier access to healthcare, financial protection against the cost of care, better quality care and benefits related to mutual assistance. This has both practical and policy implications, which are discussed in this article.