When a family’s main breadwinner suffers from a respiratory infection, he may miss work for a week or longer. In Thailand before the days of universal coverage, he often had to choose between paying for a visit to the doctor and paying for food and clothing for his family. Many Thais chose to forgo health care, leading to missed work and reduced productivity. But too many absences could cost him his job, reinforcing the vicious cycle between poor health and poverty.
Worldwide, many health systems fail to protect families from the financial risk of obtaining health care. In 2012, over 35 countries relied on out-of-pocket payments for more than half of total health spending.source Faced with the urgent need to help a dangerously sick family member, people do what they need to get help. In many settings, more than one in four people are forced to borrow money or sell their belongings to pay for healthcare.source