large wave about to hit tiny figures Up to 90% of all households incurring impoverishing out-of-pocket health spending already are at or below the poverty line. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The pandemic likely has tapped the brakes on two decades of global progress toward universal health coverage. Even before the pandemic, more than a half-billion people were further pushed into extreme poverty because they have to pay for health services out of their own pockets.

New reports by the World Health Organization and the World Bank highlight the devastating impact of COVID-19 on people’s ability to obtain health care and pay for it. In 2020, the pandemic disrupted health services and stretched countries’ health systems beyond their limits as they struggled to deal with the impact of COVID-19. The pandemic also triggered the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, making it increasingly difficult for people to pay for care.

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