An unexpected illness or injury to an microfinance institution client or family member can derail a promising financial future. The ability of clients to succeed in income generating enterprises and pay their microloans determines their credit, savings, and the ability to continue to participate with the financial service provider. But in many communities, illness or injury continues to be the most significant reason for the inability to pay. What role do microfinance institutions have in healthcare access and financing schemes?
The NGO Freedom from Hunger, before they merged with the Grameen Foundation in 2016, developed a number of trial plans with their associated agencies to attempt to address healthcare access and financing needs among the rural poor served by microfinance institutions. CRECER, the Credito con Educacion Rural in Bolivia began offering, in addition to health and education classes that were part of their initial mission, emergency health loans. Their mandate is primarily through a village or group community savings program. They offered the health loans to clients who had completed two loan cycles, and required a group member co-signer with collateral. The emergency health loans were paid back over a year, with weekly or biweekly payments.
Since CRECER became independent, they have continued to offer expanded health and education programs through their For a Better Life program, which offers education in health, environmental awareness, nutrition, housing, and other identified needs.
In West Bengal, India, BANDHAN developed an informal health education system to teach basic health promotion and wellness, as well as how to access health care in their local communities. They also provided clients and families with emergency health loans.
In Burkina Faso, RCPB developed a health savings account product, with a credit card attached to the savings account; clients could go to the pharmacy and health care provider and use the care for services and products without worrying about obtaining cash.
This range of integrated services and products–education, access to local health providers, microinsurance and health savings accounts, and health emergency loans–form the basic products, along with education programs that incorporate health, wellness, and nutrition. When microfinance and other financial service providers assist those who are unbanked to enter the financial mainstream, the process of establishing identity and registering into social systems can also be used to enroll and access government or regional health services.
Find out more about Fern Software solutions, click here to request for our brochures for free!