Informal Payments for Outpatient Health Care: Country-Wide Evidence from Iran
Article Type:
Research/Original Article (دارای رتبه معتبر)

Reliance heavily on out-of-pocket (OOP) payments, including informal payments (IPs), has undesired effects on financial risk protection and access to care. While a significant share of total health expenditure is spent on outpatient services, there is scant evidence of the patient's amount paid informally in outpatient services. Such evidence is available for inpatient services, showing the high prevalence of informal payments, ranging from 14 to 48% in the whole hospital. This study aimed to investigate the extent of OOP and IPs for outpatient services in Iran.  


A secondary data analysis of the 2015 IR Iran's Utilization of Healthcare Services (IrUHS) survey was conducted. A sample of 11,782 individuals with basic health insurance who were visited at least once by a physician in two private and public health care centers was included in this analysis. The percentage of OOP was determined and compared with the defined copayment (30%). The frequency of IPs was determined regarding the number of individuals who paid more than the defined copayments. The Mann-Whitney test also investigated the relationships between OOP percentage and IPs frequency with demographic variables.  


The share that insured patients in Iran pay for a general practitioner (GP) visit was 38% in public versus 61% in the private sector, while for a specialist practitioner visit, the figures were 80% and 96%, respectively, which is higher than defined copayment (30%). This share was significantly higher in females, urban areas, highly educated people, private service providers, and specialist visits. The frequency of IPs, who paid more than the defined copayments, was 73% for a GP in public versus 86% in the private sector, while for a specialist practitioner visit, these were 90% and 93%, respectively.   


Informal patient payments for outpatient services are prevalent in Iran. Hence, more interventions are required to eliminate or control the IPs in outpatient services, particularly in the private sector. In this regard, making a well-regulated market, reinforcing the referral system, and developing an equity-oriented essential health services package would be fundamental.

Medical Journal Of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Volume:36 Issue: 1, Winter 2022
409 to 415  
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