A week ahead of the 2017 UHC Forum, the JLN community of countries joined partners in Korea to celebrate the country’s 40th year anniversary of its national health insurance system. Close to 100 UHC implementers from 15 countries gathered in Seoul, with representatives from Korea’s National Health Insurance Service (NHIS), Health Insurance Review and Assessment Agency (HIRA), and the KDI School of Public Policy and Management to celebrate Korea’s remarkable success in achieving UHC and the progress JLN countries are making through practitioner-to-practitioner learning.
The kick-off event, held December 4th in Seoul, opened with remarks from Kim Seungtaik, President of HIRA. Highlighting his country’s success, he acknowledged the need for Korea to continue learning, “Korea has become known as one of the success cases for UHC. A lot of countries are learning from Korea’s example. Through collaboration with the JLN, Korea will continue to learn and further strengthen its health insurance in the country.”
Korea progressed toward UHC in a short time span of 12 years, basing its model on a centralized health insurance system and starting out with covering the formal sector, followed by phasing in coverage of the self-employed and the vulnerable.
Korea became a full member of the JLN in 2016 and a member of the network’s Steering Group in early 2017.
Expressing Korea’s interest in and commitment to being part of the JLN, Lee Hongkyun, Head of Health Insurance Policy Research at NHIS, said, “We achieved UHC and want to share our knowledge and experience with other countries.”
While several of the attending participants from countries were well versed with the JLN’s joint learning approach, having been part of JLN’s learning collaboratives, several others were being introduced for the first time to the network’s learning collaboratives and its unique focus on implementation knowledge.
“JLN represents a new paradigm in learning. Its country-led and South-South framework acknowledges the experiential knowledge that countries have and can share with each other,” noted Darren Dorkin, the World Bank’s Program Coordinator in South Korea.
The participants received an overview of the JLN and its remarkable expansion over the past couple of years from Rozita Halina Tun Hussein, JLN Convener and Senior Deputy Director, Planning Division, Ministry of Health, Malaysia. “It’s exciting to see how the platform has grown. We are now looking to build a vision for the next phase of the network,” she said.
Several attending country members shared their experiences with the JLN and the benefits the practitioner-to-practitioner learning has yielded for their efforts back home in implementing reforms toward UHC.
- For Kenya, participating in the Health Benefits Policy learning collaborative underpinned the benefits of JLN’s approach. Through webinars, email exchanges and face-to-face discussions, participants grew their implementation knowledge. Some participating countries were developing new packages, while others were revisiting their benefits packages, which particularly enriched the learning exchange. A key takeaway for Kenya has been the emphasis on factoring in contextual issues while developing a benefits package – an insight that guided the framing of the toolkit.
- In another example, Malaysia is leveraging the knowledge from the Primary Health Care Measurement for Improvement learning collaborative for data measurement and management. The resulting tool, due to be launched in early 2018, will help guide enhancing the country’s monitoring framework.
- In the case of Kenya, JLN’s Primary Healthcare Self-Assessment Tool has helped the country make an evidence-based assessment of its health system. Kenya is now engaged in the newly launched Domestic Resource Mobilization collaborative, looking to gain insights from other countries on mobilizing resources, such as from Korea about leveraging the tobacco tax and how to frame the case to Ministry of Finance, and from India about its experience with decentralized health systems.
A special highlight of the event was the soft launch of the Medical Audit Systems toolkit, a new knowledge product to help UHC practitioners design indicators to improve the quality of patient care and make efficiency gains in health care systems. The tool was co-produced by eight countries, including Colombia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria and the Philippines, working in collaboration with Korea’s HIRA, which has successfully improved the accountability and transparency of its health insurance system through an extensive ICT-based centralized claim review and assessment.
The event was followed by three JLN collaboratives holding their learning exchanges: Health Benefits Policy, Private Sector Engagement, and newly launched Domestic Resource Mobilization. The three collaboratives came together for a stimulating afternoon session offering the opportunity for cross-cutting learning for all participants.
Also on the sidelines, the JLN’s Steering Group met for its second and last face-to-face meeting this year for a strategy discussion for the next phase of the JLN. The week in Seoul set the stage for 2017 UHC Forum, to be held December 12-15 in Tokyo.