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Open Access Research article

Health care expenditure for hospital-based delivery care in Lao PDR

Daovieng Douangvichit1*, Tippawan Liabsuetrakul2 and Edward McNeil2

Author Affiliations

1 National Institute of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Vientiane capital, Lao PDR

2 Epidemiology Unit, Faculty of Medicine, Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai, Songkhla 90112, Thailand

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:30  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-30

Published: 14 January 2012



Delivery by a skilled birth attendant (SBA) in a hospital is advocated to improve maternal health; however, hospital expenses for delivery care services are a concern for women and their families, particularly for women who pay out-of-pocket. Although health insurance is now implemented in Lao PDR, it is not universal throughout the country. The objectives of this study are to estimate the total health care expenses for vaginal delivery and caesarean section, to determine the association between health insurance and family income with health care expenditure and assess the effect of health insurance from the perspectives of the women and the skilled birth attendants (SBAs) in Lao PDR.


A cross-sectional study was carried out in two provincial hospitals in Lao PDR, from June to October 2010. Face to face interviews of 581 women who gave birth in hospital and 27 SBAs was carried out. Both medical and non-medical expenses were considered. A linear regression model was used to assess influencing factors on health care expenditure and trends of medical and non-medical expenditure by monthly family income stratified by mode of delivery were assessed.


Of 581 women, 25% had health care insurance. Health care expenses for delivery care services were significantly higher for caesarean section (270 USD) than for vaginal delivery (59 USD). After adjusting for the effect of hospital, family income was significantly associated with all types of expenditure in caesarean section, while it was associated with non-medical and total expenditures in vaginal delivery. Both delivering women and health providers thought that health insurance increased the utilisation of delivery care.


Substantially higher delivery care expenses were incurred for caesarean section compared to vaginal delivery. Three-fourths of the women who were not insured needed to be responsible for their own health care payment. Women who had higher family incomes were able to pay for more non-medical care expenses. The effect of health insurance on service utilization was noted by women and SBAs. To achieve the goal of utilizing delivery care in the hospitals, coverage of health insurance needs to be expanded.