A roadmap to parity in mental health financing: the case of Lebanon

Farah Yehia, Ziad Nahas, Shadi Saleh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Inadequate access to mental health (MH) services in Lebanon, where prevalence is noteworthy, is a concern. Although a multitude of factors affects access to services, lack of financial coverage of MH services is one that merits further investigation.

AIM OF THE STUDY: This study aims at providing a systematic description of MH financing systems with a special focus on Lebanon, presenting stakeholder viewpoints on best MH financing alternatives/strategies and recommending options for enhancing financial coverage.

METHODS: A comprehensive review of existing literature on MH financing systems was conducted, with a focus on the system in Lebanon. In addition, key stakeholders were interviewed to assess MH organizational and financing arrangements. Finally, a national round table was organized with the aim of discussing findings (from the review and interviews) and developing an action roadmap.

RESULTS: Taxation and out-of-pocket payments are the most common MH financing sources worldwide and in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. In Lebanon, all funding entities, except private insurance and mutual funds, cover inpatient and outpatient MH services, albeit with inconsistencies in levels of coverage. The national roundtable recommended two main MH financing enhancements: (i) creating a knowledge-sharing committee between insurers and MH specialists, and (ii) convincing labor unions/representatives to lobby for MH coverage as part of the negotiated benefit package.

DISCUSSION: There are concerns regarding the equity, effectiveness and efficiency of the MH financing system in Lebanon. The fragmented system in Lebanon leads to differences in MH coverage across different financing intermediaries, which is inequitable. The fact that one out of four Lebanese suffer a mental disorder throughout their lives and very low percentages of those obtain treatment signals a problem in effectiveness. As for efficiency, the inefficient fragmentation of MH financing among seven intermediaries is a problematic characteristic of the healthcare financing system as a whole. Moreover, the orientation of the general healthcare system towards curative rather than preventive care is reflected in MH financing as well. Limitations of the study include the lack of access to data about the MH expenditure of every financing intermediary in Lebanon; therefore it was not possible to calculate a total annual MH spending on a country level. Another limitation was the inability to map the sources of funding with the MH service provision sector, as more extensive data about the MH services provided by each of the public, private, voluntary and informal sectors is needed.

IMPLICATIONS FOR HEALTH POLICIES: Providing a clear description of the current MH financing system helps policymakers recognize the disparities present in the coverage of MH, guiding them into making informed decisions on allocation of funds. This study therefore constitutes the first step towards achieving more equitable and socially just coverage, advances knowledge and provides well-needed locally relevant research. Findings are expected to inform policymaking and have already contributed to influencing a change in the policy of the Internal Security Forces Health Fund. As a result of the roundtable discussion and follow up that ensued, the fund has removed the suicide attempt exclusion from its insurance policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-141
Number of pages11
JournalThe journal of mental health policy and economics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


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