Background: The Saudi Healthcare System is universal, financed entirely from government revenue principally derived from oil, and is ‘free at the point of delivery’ (non-contributory). However, this system is unlikely to be sustainable in the medium to long term. This study investigates the feasibility and acceptability of healthcare financing reform by examining households’ willingness to pay (WTP) for a contributory national health insurance scheme. Methods: Using the contingent valuation method, a pre-tested interviewer-administered questionnaire was used to collect data from 1187 heads of household in Jeddah province over a 5-month period. Multi-stage sampling was employed to select the study sample. Using a double-bounded dichotomous choice with the follow-up elicitation method, respondents were asked to state their WTP for a hypothetical contributory national health insurance scheme. Tobit regression analysis was used to examine the factors associated with WTP and assess the construct validity of elicited WTP. Results: Over two-thirds (69.6%) indicated that they were willing to participate in and pay for a contributory national health insurance scheme. The mean WTP was 50 Saudi Riyal (US$13.33) per household member per month. Tobit regression analysis showed that household size, satisfaction with the quality of public healthcare services, perceptions about financing healthcare, education and income were the main determinants of WTP. Conclusions: This study demonstrates a theoretically valid WTP for a contributory national health insurance scheme by Saudi people. The research shows that willingness to participate in and pay for a contributory national health insurance scheme depends on participant characteristics. Identifying and understanding the main influencing factors associated with WTP are important to help facilitate establishing and implementing the national health insurance scheme. The results could assist policy-makers to develop and set insurance premiums, thus providing an additional source of healthcare financing.
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Funding: King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - PhD scholarship.