Healthcare challenges: The struggle of uninsured families in Bali

While Bali’s beautiful landscape and unique culture draw tourists from around the world, many travellers are unaware that large numbers of residents lack access to healthcare, leaving many families facing significant barriers to obtaining medical treatments and financial difficulties if a member falls ill.

BPJS (Badan Penyelenggara Jaminan Sosial) is an Indonesian social security program that provides healthcare coverage, including medical treatment, hospitalization, medication, and work-related injury benefits to Indonesian citizens and legal residents.

However, qualifying for BPJS is a challenging task. The eligibility criteria include income levels, occupation, and often membership in specific social groups. These criteria can be challenging for many individuals and families and are especially hard for those working in an informal sector, such as private drivers, domestic workers, street vendors, farmers, etc.

Bali has a diverse population of Hindus, Muslims, Christians and migrants from other parts of Indonesia, and the bureaucratic application process adds another layer of difficulty, discouraging many from attempting to apply for BPJS, particularly the ones who do not speak the local language. Inadequate language support and cultural sensitivity in healthcare settings can result in miscommunication and limited understanding of healthcare information, further reducing access to quality care.

While Bali’s economy heavily relies on tourism, employment and healthcare infrastructure are predominantly concentrated in urban areas, which leaves many rural communities with limited access to hospitals and clinics.

Without insurance coverage, families need to pay for medical expenses out of their own pockets. Healthcare costs are high in many cases, especially for serious illnesses, surgeries, or prolonged treatments. Thus, residents might delay seeking medical treatment, leading to more severe health conditions that require expensive treatments later on.

In addition to direct medical bills, there might be indirect costs associated with illness on top of the expenses. For instance, a family might need to spend on transportation to reach medical facilities, accommodation if treatment requires staying away from home, food and other related expenses.

Yet many families rely on multiple incomes to make ends meet. If a member falls ill and can no longer work, it puts additional pressure on families, possibly leading to financial difficulties. Furthermore, the required treatment can divert funds that might have otherwise been allocated for education, impacting children’s future opportunities and potentially perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Through initiatives like the Soul Projects, Volunteer Programs Forever aims to offer Balinese residents scholarships, adequate housing and more to alleviate immediate burdens and empower Balinese families by ensuring children’s education and a sustainable future.