Aligning priorities in Ethiopian health finance: How do the essential health services package and health benefit plans compare?

Adam D. Koon, Jenna Wright, Leulseged Ageze, Jodi Charles, Jeanna Holtz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Priority setting is a key function of health systems in low- and middle-income countries that seek to achieve universal health coverage. Essential health services packages (EHSPs) and health benefit plans are two types of instruments used in setting health care priorities. Both instruments exist in Ethiopia, but little is known about how they are aligned. To gain insights into the evolution, purpose, policy objectives, and governance of the EHSP, community-based health insurance (CBHI), and social health insurance (SHI) in Ethiopia, we conducted a case study. This included a desk review of relevant documents as well as qualitative analysis of key informant interviews conducted with 15 leading health finance experts in Addis Ababa. Interviewees understood the EHSP to be a key priority-setting instrument in the country by coordinating the activities of health system stakeholders, and guaranteeing the right of citizens to a basic level of care. Community-based health insurance and SHI were described as mechanisms for the government to expand health coverage and provide financial protection. Interviewees acknowledged that Ethiopia had drawn on the experience of other countries when designing health benefit plans, but contrasted Ethiopia's experience with that of other countries. We found that in Ethiopia, the EHSP, CBHI, and SHI are not explicitly aligned. We propose that EHSPs play an important role in early stages of health systems development. However, as governments develop health benefit plans with expansive packages of services, the importance of EHSPs becomes less clear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Health Planning and Management
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • essential health services
  • Ethiopia
  • priority-setting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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