Health systems are facing growing challenges. While health costs tend to rise due to the higher costs of technologies and drugs, as well as the prevalence of non-communicable diseases which on average involve longer term care, budgets are facing harsh cutbacks.
In the meantime, human resources in health are scarce, often resulting in an uneven distribution of health services across zones, accruing health inequalities. In turn, households are facing incremental rises in the level of out-of-pocket payments for health care, either because their health insurance coverage is not sufficient or because effective access to care requires complementary payments. According to World Health Organization estimates, 100 million people fall into poverty due to catastrophic expenses in health each year.
Escalating costs, insufficient coverage, increasing demand for demonstrated performance, dire need to adapt to evolving health profiles and needs: social security organizations aim precisely at providing appropriate coverage against these risks and shielding people from being forced into poverty traps as a consequence of this crucial expenditure. Social security systems help policy- and decision-makers in the field of health, as in other sectors facing social development, inclusion and growth challenges; they also support economic development by avoiding downfalls and setbacks due to vulnerable groups' impoverishment.
There is growing momentum at international level to support health insurance coverage as well as more equitable and effective access to health care, as this would enable populations to access more effective social benefits in response to their needs. Health has increasingly become a priority on the international agenda in recent decades, as illustrated by its prominence in the MDGs' overarching development framework and the Social Protection Floors concept. Given the cross-cutting nature of health, which spans the entire policy agenda and influences economic growth, demographic trends and social development, social security organizations are increasingly involved in the design of effective and efficient policies and programmes to help address key health challenges.