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1.  Quality of Private and Public Ambulatory Health Care in Low and Middle Income Countries: Systematic Review of Comparative Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(4):e1000433.
Paul Garner and colleagues conducted a systematic review of 80 studies to compare the quality of private versus public ambulatory health care in low- and middle-income countries.
In developing countries, the private sector provides a substantial proportion of primary health care to low income groups for communicable and non-communicable diseases. These providers are therefore central to improving health outcomes. We need to know how their services compare to those of the public sector to inform policy options.
Methods and Findings
We summarised reliable research comparing the quality of formal private versus public ambulatory health care in low and middle income countries. We selected studies against inclusion criteria following a comprehensive search, yielding 80 studies. We compared quality under standard categories, converted values to a linear 100% scale, calculated differences between providers within studies, and summarised median values of the differences across studies. As the results for for-profit and not-for-profit providers were similar, we combined them. Overall, median values indicated that many services, irrespective of whether public or private, scored low on infrastructure, clinical competence, and practice. Overall, the private sector performed better in relation to drug supply, responsiveness, and effort. No difference between provider groups was detected for patient satisfaction or competence. Synthesis of qualitative components indicates the private sector is more client centred.
Although data are limited, quality in both provider groups seems poor, with the private sector performing better in drug availability and aspects of delivery of care, including responsiveness and effort, and possibly being more client orientated. Strategies seeking to influence quality in both groups are needed to improve care delivery and outcomes for the poor, including managing the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
The provision of private (“for-profit” hospitals and self-employed practitioners, and “not-for-profit” non-government providers, including faith-based organizations) versus public health care services in low and middle income countries raises considerable ideological debate. Ideological arguments aside—which can be very passionate on both sides—there is general agreement that improving the quality of both public and private health care could have a major impact on improved health outcomes, especially as the private sector is so widely used in low and middle income countries. For example, almost three quarters and half of children from the poorest households of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, respectively, seek health care from a private provider when they are ill. Private providers are also increasingly responsible for outpatient care for non-communicable diseases.
As a result of the mixed health care system in many low and middle income countries, adequate oversight and stewardship of the mixed system from the national government is essential yet often missing.
Why Was This Study Done?
An understanding of how quality and performance in the private sector compares with that in the public sector would help governments to prioritize where they need to concentrate their efforts. So, for example, if the private sector is generally providing poorer quality care than the public sector, then there is an imperative to improve the quality and outcomes; on the other hand, if the quality of care offered by the private sector is good, the policy priority is to influence the market to further improve access to such health care for low income groups.
In order to help with this comparison, the researchers wanted to systematically identify and summarize the results of studies that directly compared the quality of care offered by public providers with the one offered by “formal” private providers (recognized by law) and “informal” private providers (providers that are not legally recognized, such as lay health workers and shop keepers). For the purposes of this study the researchers focused their comparison on the private and public provision of outpatient care in low and middle income countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In their literature review, the researchers searched for relevant studies reported in English, French, or German and published between January 1970 and April 2009. Only studies that compared private and public outpatient medical services in the same country, at the same time, using the same methods, and which met particular quality criteria, were included in the analysis. The researchers also had strict criteria for including qualitative studies, and they retrieved the full text of articles, contacted study authors where appropriate, and verified with a second researcher most (80%) of the extracted study data. In order to evaluate and compare the studies, the researchers converted study values to a linear 100% scale, calculated differences between providers within studies, and summarized the median values of the differences across studies.
The researchers identified a total of 8,812 relevant titles and abstracts and found 80 studies that included direct quantitative comparisons of public and private formal providers. Ten studies included qualitative data. Most studies were conducted after 1990, and mainly in sub-Saharan Africa (n = 39) and Asia and the Pacific (n = 23). Most studies did not report socio-economic status of public and private service users, and only five studies presented data by different income groups. No study compared the same individual providers working in public and private care settings. Only two studies compared public providers and private informal providers, so the authors excluded these from subsequent analysis.
For the formal sector, since the results for “for-profit” and “not-for-profit” providers were similar, the researchers decided to combine the results. Overall, the researchers found that the median values indicated that many services, irrespective of whether public or private, scored low (less than 50%) on infrastructure, clinical competence, and practice. Generally, the private sector performed better in relation to drug supply, responsiveness, and effort, but there was no detectable difference between provider groups for patient satisfaction. Furthermore, a synthesis of qualitative data suggested that the private sector may be more client-centered.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Based on the findings of this review, there is a clear need to consider the quality of primary health services in both the public and private sector in order to improve health outcomes in low and middle income countries. These findings also indicate that, for some aspects of care, on average the private sector provided better quality services. The overall low quality of care in both the formal private and public sector found in this review is worrying, and calls for the governments of low and middle income countries to find and implement effective strategies to improve the quality in both sectors. This is particularly important given the increasing volume of conditions that require relatively sophisticated, long-term ambulatory medical care, such as non-communicable diseases.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Jishnu Das
WHO has more information on health service delivery in low- and middle-income countries
WHO has more information on noncommunicable diseases
The World Bank's World Development Report for 2004 addresses health care for poor people
PMCID: PMC3075233  PMID: 21532746
2.  Comparative Performance of Private and Public Healthcare Systems in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(6):e1001244.
A systematic review conducted by Sanjay Basu and colleagues reevaluates the evidence relating to comparative performance of public versus private sector healthcare delivery in low- and middle-income countries.
Private sector healthcare delivery in low- and middle-income countries is sometimes argued to be more efficient, accountable, and sustainable than public sector delivery. Conversely, the public sector is often regarded as providing more equitable and evidence-based care. We performed a systematic review of research studies investigating the performance of private and public sector delivery in low- and middle-income countries.
Methods and Findings
Peer-reviewed studies including case studies, meta-analyses, reviews, and case-control analyses, as well as reports published by non-governmental organizations and international agencies, were systematically collected through large database searches, filtered through methodological inclusion criteria, and organized into six World Health Organization health system themes: accessibility and responsiveness; quality; outcomes; accountability, transparency, and regulation; fairness and equity; and efficiency. Of 1,178 potentially relevant unique citations, data were obtained from 102 articles describing studies conducted in low- and middle-income countries. Comparative cohort and cross-sectional studies suggested that providers in the private sector more frequently violated medical standards of practice and had poorer patient outcomes, but had greater reported timeliness and hospitality to patients. Reported efficiency tended to be lower in the private than in the public sector, resulting in part from perverse incentives for unnecessary testing and treatment. Public sector services experienced more limited availability of equipment, medications, and trained healthcare workers. When the definition of “private sector” included unlicensed and uncertified providers such as drug shop owners, most patients appeared to access care in the private sector; however, when unlicensed healthcare providers were excluded from the analysis, the majority of people accessed public sector care. “Competitive dynamics” for funding appeared between the two sectors, such that public funds and personnel were redirected to private sector development, followed by reductions in public sector service budgets and staff.
Studies evaluated in this systematic review do not support the claim that the private sector is usually more efficient, accountable, or medically effective than the public sector; however, the public sector appears frequently to lack timeliness and hospitality towards patients.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Health care can be provided through public and private providers. Public health care is usually provided by the government through national healthcare systems. Private health care can be provided through “for profit” hospitals and self-employed practitioners, and “not for profit” non-government providers, including faith-based organizations.
There is considerable ideological debate around whether low- and middle-income countries should strengthen public versus private healthcare services, but in reality, most low- and middle-income countries use both types of healthcare provision. Recently, as the global economic recession has put major constraints on government budgets—the major funding source for healthcare expenditures in most countries—disputes between the proponents of private and public systems have escalated, further fuelled by the recommendation of International Monetary Fund (an international finance institution) that countries increase the scope of private sector provision in health care as part of loan conditions to reduce government debt. However, critics of the private health sector believe that public healthcare provision is of most benefit to poor people and is the only way to achieve universal and equitable access to health care.
Why Was This Study Done?
Both sides of the public versus private healthcare debate draw on selected case reports to defend their viewpoints, but there is a widely held view that the private health system is more efficient than the public health system. Therefore, in order to inform policy, there is an urgent need for robust evidence to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the health care provided through both systems. In this study, the authors reviewed all of the evidence in a systematic way to evaluate available data on public and private sector performance.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used eight databases and a comprehensive key word search to identify and review appropriate published data and studies of private and public sector performance in low- and middle-income countries. They assessed selected studies against the World Health Organization's six essential themes of health systems—accessibility and responsiveness; quality; outcomes; accountability, transparency, and regulation; fairness and equity; and efficiency—and conducted a narrative review of each theme.
Out of the 102 relevant studies included in their comparative analysis, 59 studies were research studies and 13 involved meta-analysis, with the rest involving case reports or reviews. The researchers found that study findings varied considerably across countries studied (one-third of studies were conducted in Africa and a third in Southeast Asia) and by the methods used.
Financial barriers to care (such as user fees) were reported for both public and private systems. Although studies report that patients in the private sector experience better timeliness and hospitality, studies suggest that providers in the private sector more frequently violate accepted medical standards and have lower reported efficiency.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This systematic review did not support previous views that private sector delivery of health care in low- and middle-income settings is more efficient, accountable, or effective than public sector delivery. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses, but importantly, in both sectors, there were financial barriers to care, and each had poor accountability and transparency. This systematic review highlights a limited and poor-quality evidence base regarding the comparative performance of the two systems.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
A previous PLoS Medicine study examined the outpatient care provided by the public and private sector in low-income countries
The WHO website provides more information on healthcare systems
The World Bank website provides information on health system financing
Oxfam provides an argument against increased private health care in poor countries
PMCID: PMC3378609  PMID: 22723748
3.  The Association Between Insurance Status and Emergency Department Disposition of Injured California Children 
This study examined the relationship between insurance status and emergency department (ED) disposition of injured California children.
Multivariate regression models were built using data obtained from the 2005 through 2009 California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) datasets for all ED visits by injured children younger than 19 years of age.
Of 3,519,530 injury-related ED visits, 52% were insured by private, and 36% were insured by public insurance, while 11% of visits were not insured. After adjustment for injury characteristics and demographic variables, publicly insured children had a higher likelihood of admission for mild, moderate, and severe injuries compared to privately insured children (mild injury adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.36; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.34 to 1.39; moderate and severe injury AOR = 1.34; 95% CI = 1.28 to 1.41). However, uninsured children were less likely to be admitted for mild, moderate, and severe injuries compared to privately insured children (mild injury: AOR = 0.63; 95% CI = 0.61 to 0.66; moderate and severe injury: AOR = 0.50; 95% CI = 0.46 to 0.55). While publicly insured children with moderate and severe injuries were as likely as privately insured children to experience an ED death (AOR = 0.91; 95% CI = 0.70 to 1.18), uninsured children with moderate and severe injuries were more likely to die in the ED compared to privately insured children (AOR = 3.11; 95% CI = 2.38 to 4.06).
Privately insured, publicly insured, and uninsured injured children have disparate patterns of ED disposition. Policy and clinical efforts are needed to ensure that all injured children receive equitable emergency care.
PMCID: PMC3443629  PMID: 22594358
4.  The geographic distribution of private health insurance in Australia in 2001 
Private health insurance has been a major focus of Commonwealth Government health policy for the last decade. Over this period, the Howard government introduced a number of policy changes which impacted on the take up of private health insurance. The most expensive of these was the introduction of the private health insurance rebate in 1997, which had an estimated cost of $3 billion per annum.
This article uses information on the geographic distribution of the population with private health insurance cover to identify associations between rates of private health insurance cover and socioeconomic status. The geographic analysis is repeated with survey data on expenditure on private health insurance, to provide an estimate of the rebate flowing to different socioeconomic groups.
The analysis highlights the strong association between high rates of private health insurance cover and high socioeconomic status and shows the substantial transfer of funds, under the private health insurance rebate, to those living in areas of highest socioeconomic status, compared with those in areas of lower socioeconomic status, and in particular those in the most disadvantaged areas. The article also provides estimates of private health insurance cover by federal electorate, emphasising the substantial gaps in cover between Liberal Party and Australian Labor Party seats.
The article concludes by discussing implications of the uneven distribution of private health insurance cover across Australia for policy formation. In particular, the study shows that the prevalence of private health insurance is unevenly distributed across Australia, with marked differences in prevalence in rural and urban areas, and substantial differences by socioeconomic status. Policy formation needs to take this into account. Evaluating the potential impact of changes in private health insurance requires more nuanced consideration than has been implied in the rhetoric about private health insurance over the last decade.
PMCID: PMC3224949  PMID: 19686590
5.  The role of insurance in the achievement of universal coverage within a developing country context: South Africa as a case study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12(Suppl 1):S5.
Achieving universal coverage as an objective needs to confront the reality of multiple mechanisms, with healthcare financing and provision occurring in both public and private settings. South Africa has both large and mature public and private health systems offering useful insights into how they can be effectively harmonized to optimise coverage. Private healthcare in South Africa has also gone through many phases and regulatory regimes which, through careful review, can help identify potential policy frameworks that can optimise their ability to deepen coverage in a manner that complements the basic coverage of public arrangements.
Research question
Using South Africa as a case study, this review examines whether private health systems are susceptible to regulation and therefore able to support an extension and deepening of coverage when complementing a pre-existing publicly funded and delivered health system?
The approach involves a review of different stages in the development of the South African private health system and its response to policy changes. The focus is on the time-bound characteristics of the health system and associated policy responses and opportunities. A distinction is consequently made between the early, largely unregulated, phases of development and more mature phases with alternative regulatory regimes.
The private health system in South Africa has played an important supplementary role in achieving universal coverage throughout its history, but more especially in the post-Apartheid period. However, the quality of this role has been erratic, influenced predominantly by policy vacillation.
The private system expanded rapidly during the 1980s mainly due to the pre-existence of a mature health insurance system and a weakening public hospital system which could accommodate and facilitate an increased demand for private hospital services. This growth served to expand commercial interest in health insurance, in the form of regulated medical schemes, which until this point took the form of non-commercial occupational (employer-based) schemes. During the 1980s government acquiesced to industry lobbies arguing for the deregulation of health insurance from 1989, with an extreme deregulation occurring in 1994, evidently in anticipation of the change of government associated with the democratic dispensation. Dramatic unintended consequences followed, with substantial increases in provider and funder costs coinciding with uncontrolled discrimination against poor health risks.
Against significant industry opposition, including legal challenges, partial re-regulation took effect from 2000 which removed the discretion of schemes to discriminate against poor health risks. This included: the implementation of a strong regulator of health insurance; the establishment of one allowable vehicle able to provide health insurance; open enrolment, whereby schemes could not refuse membership applications; mandatory minimum benefit requirements; and a prohibition on setting contributions or premiums on the basis of health status. After a two-year lag, dramatically reduced cost trends and contributions became evident. Aside from generally tighter regulation across a range of fronts, this appears related to the need for schemes to compete more on the basis of healthcare provider costs than demographic risk profiles. Despite an incomplete reform improved equitable coverage and cost-containment was nevertheless achieved.
A more complete regulatory regime is consequently likely to deepen coverage by: further stabilising and even decreasing costs; enhanced risk pooling; and access for low income groups. This would occur if South Africa: improved the quality of free public services, thereby creating competitive constraints for medical schemes; introduced risk-equalisation, increasing the pressure on schemes to compete on the cost and quality of coverage rather than their risk profile; and through the establishment of improved price regulation.
The objective of universal coverage can be seen in two dimensions, horizontal extension and vertical deepening. Private systems play an important role in deepening coverage by mobilising revenue from income earners for health services over-and-above the horizontal extension role of public systems and related subsidies. South Africa provides an example of how this natural deepening occurs whether regulated or unregulated. It also demonstrates how poor regulation of mature private systems can severely undermine this role and diminish achievements below attainable levels of social protection. The mature South African system has demonstrated its sensitivity to regulatory design and responds rapidly to changes both positive and negative. When measures to enhance risk pooling are introduced, coverage is expanded and becomes increasingly fair and sustainable. When removed, however, the system becomes less stable and fair as costs rise and people with poor health status are systematically excluded from cover. This susceptibility to regulation therefore presents an opportunity to policymakers to achieve social protection objectives through the strategic management of markets rather than exclusively through less responsive systems based on tax-funded direct provision. This is especially relevant as private markets for healthcare are inevitable, with policy discretion reduced to a choice between functional or dysfunctional regimes.
PMCID: PMC3381693  PMID: 22992410
6.  Can Broader Diffusion of Value-Based Insurance Design Increase Benefits from US Health Care without Increasing Costs? Evidence from a Computer Simulation Model 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(2):e1000234.
Using a computer simulation based on US data, R. Scott Braithwaite and colleagues calculate the benefits of value-based insurance design, in which patients pay less for highly cost-effective services.
Evidence suggests that cost sharing (i.e.,copayments and deductibles) decreases health expenditures but also reduces essential care. Value-based insurance design (VBID) has been proposed to encourage essential care while controlling health expenditures. Our objective was to estimate the impact of broader diffusion of VBID on US health care benefits and costs.
Methods and Findings
We used a published computer simulation of costs and life expectancy gains from US health care to estimate the impact of broader diffusion of VBID. Two scenarios were analyzed: (1) applying VBID solely to pharmacy benefits and (2) applying VBID to both pharmacy benefits and other health care services (e.g., devices). We assumed that cost sharing would be eliminated for high-value services (<$100,000 per life-year), would remain unchanged for intermediate- or unknown-value services ($100,000–$300,000 per life-year or unknown), and would be increased for low-value services (>$300,000 per life-year). All costs are provided in 2003 US dollars. Our simulation estimated that approximately 60% of health expenditures in the US are spent on low-value services, 20% are spent on intermediate-value services, and 20% are spent on high-value services. Correspondingly, the vast majority (80%) of health expenditures would have cost sharing that is impacted by VBID. With prevailing patterns of cost sharing, health care conferred 4.70 life-years at a per-capita annual expenditure of US$5,688. Broader diffusion of VBID to pharmaceuticals increased the benefit conferred by health care by 0.03 to 0.05 additional life-years, without increasing costs and without increasing out-of-pocket payments. Broader diffusion of VBID to other health care services could increase the benefit conferred by health care by 0.24 to 0.44 additional life-years, also without increasing costs and without increasing overall out-of-pocket payments. Among those without health insurance, using cost saving from VBID to subsidize insurance coverage would increase the benefit conferred by health care by 1.21 life-years, a 31% increase.
Broader diffusion of VBID may amplify benefits from US health care without increasing health expenditures.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
More money is spent per person on health care in the US than in any other country. US health care expenditure accounts for 16.2% of the gross domestic product and this figure is rising. Indeed, the increase in health care costs is outstripping the economy's growth rate. Consequently, US policy makers and providers of health insurance—health care in the US is largely provided by the private sector and is paid for through private health insurance or through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid—are looking for better ways to control health expenditures. Although some health care cost reductions can be achieved by increasing efficiency, controlling the quantity of health care consumed is an essential component of strategies designed to reduce health expenditures. These strategies can target health care providers (for example, by requiring primary care physicians to provide referrals before their patients' insurance provides cover for specialist care) or can target consumers, often through cost sharing. Nowadays, most insurance plans include several tiers of cost sharing in which patients pay a larger proportion of the costs of expensive interventions than of cheap interventions.
Why Was This Study Done?
Cost sharing decreases health expenditure but it can also reduce demand for essential care and thus reduce the quality of care. Consequently, some experts have proposed value-based insurance design (VBID), an approach in which the amount of cost sharing is set according to the “value” of an intervention rather than its cost. The value of an intervention is defined as the ratio of the additional benefits to the additional costs of the intervention when compared to the next best alternative intervention. Under VBID, cost sharing could be waived for office visits necessary to control blood pressure in people with diabetes, which deliver high-value care, but could be increased for high-tech scans for dementia, which deliver low-value care. VBID has been adopted by several private health insurance schemes and its core principal is endorsed by US policy makers. However, it is unclear whether wider use of VBID is warranted. In this study, the researchers use a computer simulation of the US health care system to estimate the impact of broader diffusion of VBID on US health care benefits and costs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used their computer simulation to estimate the impact of applying VBID to cost sharing for drugs alone and to cost sharing for drugs, procedures, and other health care services for one million hypothetical US patients. In their simulation, the researchers eliminated cost sharing for services that cost less than US$100,000 per life-year gained (high-value services) and increased cost-sharing for services that cost more than US$300,000 per life-year gained (low-value services); cost-sharing remained unchanged for intermediate- or unknown-value services. With the current pattern of cost sharing, 60% of health expenditure is spent on low-value services and health care increases life expectancy by 4.70 years for an annual per person expenditure of US$5,688, the researchers report. With widespread application of VBID to cost sharing for drugs alone, health care increased life expectancy by an additional 0.03 to 0.05 years without increasing costs. With widespread application of VBID to cost sharing for other health care services, health care increased life expectancy by a further 0.24 to 0.44 years without additional costs. Finally, if the costs saved by applying VBID were used to subsidize insurance for the 15% of the US population currently without health insurance, the benefit conferred by health care among these people would increase by 1.21 life-years.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this study depend on the many assumptions included in the computer simulation, which, although complex, is a greatly simplified representation of the US health care system. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that if VBID were used more widely within the US health care system to encourage the use of high-value services, it might be possible to amplify the benefits from US health care without increasing health expenditures. Importantly, the money saved by VBID could be used to help fund universal insurance, a central aim of US health care reform. More research is needed, however, to determine the value of various health care interventions and to investigate whether other ways of linking value to cost sharing might yield even better gains in life expectancy at little or no additional cost.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Wikipedia has a page on health care in the United States (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Families USA works to promote high-quality affordable health care for all Americans and provides information about all aspects of US health care and about US health care reforms
The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid provides information on the major government health insurance programs and on US national health expenditure statistics
PMCID: PMC2821897  PMID: 20169114
7.  The Impact of Private Insurance Coverage on Veterans' Use of VA Care: Insurance and Selection Effects 
Health Services Research  2008;43(1 Pt 1):267-286.
To examine private insurance coverage and its impact on use of Veterans Health Administration (VA) care among VA enrollees without Medicare coverage.
Data Sources
The 1999 National Health Survey of Veteran Enrollees merged with VA administrative data, with other information drawn from American Hospital Association data and the Area Resource File.
Study Design
We modeled VA enrollees' decision of having private insurance coverage and its impact on use of VA care controlling for sociodemographic information, patients' health status, VA priority status and access to VA and non-VA alternatives. We estimated the true impact of insurance on the use of VA care by teasing out potential selection bias. Bias came from two sources: a security selection effect (sicker enrollees purchase private insurance for extra security and use more VA and non-VA care) and a preference selection effect (VA enrollees who prefer non-VA care may purchase private insurance and use less VA care).
Principal Findings
VA enrollees with private insurance coverage were less likely to use VA care. Security selection dominated preference selection and naïve models that did not control for selection effects consistently underestimated the insurance effect.
Our results indicate that prior research, which has not controlled for insurance selection effects, may have underestimated the potential impact of any private insurance policy change, which may in turn affect VA enrollees' private insurance coverage and consequently their use of VA care. From the decline in private insurance coverage from 1999 to 2002, we projected an increase of 29,400 patients and 158 million dollars for VA health care services.
PMCID: PMC2323148  PMID: 18211529
VA health care system; insurance effect; selection effect; access/demand/utilization of services; instrumental variables
8.  Effect of private insurance incentive policy reforms on trends in coronary revascularisation procedures in the private and public health sectors in Western Australia: a cohort study 
The Australian federal government introduced private health insurance incentive policy reforms in 2000 that increased the uptake of private health insurance in Australia. There is currently a lack of evidence on the effect of the policy reforms on access to cardiovascular interventions in public and private hospitals in Australia. The aim was to investigate whether the increased private health insurance uptake influenced trends in emergency and elective coronary artery revascularisation procedures (CARPs) for private and public patients.
We included 34,423 incident CARPs from Western Australia during 1995-2008 in this study. Rates of emergency and elective CARPs were stratified for publicly and privately funded patients. The average annual percent change (AAPC) in trend was calculated before and after 2000 using joinpoint regression.
The rate of emergency CARPs, which were predominantly percutaneous coronary interventions (PCIs) with stenting, increased throughout the study period for both public and private patients (AAPC=12.9%, 95% CI=5.0,22.0 and 14.1%, 95% CI=9.8,18.6, respectively) with no significant difference in trends before and after policy implementation. The rate of elective PCIs with stenting from 2000 onwards remained relatively stable for public patients (AAPC=−6.0, 95% C= −16.9,6.4), but increased by 4.1% on average annually (95% CI=1.8,6.3) for private patients (pdifference=0.04 between groups). This rate increase for private patients was only seen in people aged over 65 years and people residing in high socioeconomic areas.
The private health insurance incentive policy reforms are a likely contributing factor in the shift in 2000 from public to privately-funded elective PCIs with stenting. These reforms as well as the increasing number of private hospitals may have been successful in increasing the availability of publicly-funded beds since 2000.
PMCID: PMC3729369  PMID: 23870450
Health insurance; Coronary artery disease; Revascularisation procedures; Health policy
9.  Insurance type and sepsis-associated hospitalizations and sepsis-associated mortality among US adults: A retrospective cohort study 
Critical Care  2011;15(3):R130.
Socio-demographic and clinical factors associated with increased sepsis risk, including older age, non-white race and specific co-morbidities, are more common among patients with Medicare or Medicaid or no health insurance. We hypothesized that patients with Medicare and/or Medicaid or without health insurance have a higher risk of sepsis-associated hospitalization or sepsis-associated death than those with private health insurance.
We performed a retrospective cohort study of records from the 2003 Nationwide Inpatient Sample. We stratified the study cohort by Medicare age-qualification (18 to 64 and 65+ years old). We examined the association between insurance category and sepsis diagnosis and death among admissions involving sepsis. We used validated diagnostic codes to determine the presence of sepsis, co-morbidities and organ dysfunction and to provide risk-adjustment.
Among patients 18 to 64 years old, those with Medicaid (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 1.50), Medicare (AOR 1.96), Medicaid + Medicare (AOR 2.22) and the uninsured (AOR 1.18) had significantly higher risk-adjusted odds of a sepsis-associated admission than those with private insurance (all P < 0.0001). Those with Medicaid (AOR 1.17, P < 0.001) and those without insurance (AOR 1.45, P < 0.001) also had significantly higher adjusted odds of sepsis-associated hospital mortality than those with private insurance. Among those 65+ years old, those with Medicaid (AOR 1.43), Medicare alone (AOR 1.13) or Medicaid + Medicare (AOR 1.62) had significantly higher risk-adjusted odds of sepsis-associated admission than those with private insurance and Medicare (all P < 0.0001). Among sepsis patients 65+, uninsured patients had significantly higher risk-adjusted odds (AOR 1.45, P = 0.0048) and those with Medicare alone had significantly lower risk-adjusted odds (AOR 0.92, P = 0.0072) of hospital mortality than those with private insurance and Medicare. Lack of health insurance remained associated with sepsis-associated mortality after stratification of hospitals into quartiles based on rates of sepsis-associated admissions or mortality in both age strata.
Risks of sepsis-associated hospitalization and sepsis-associated death vary by insurance. These increased risks were not fully explained by the available socio-demographic factors, co-morbidities or hospital rates of sepsis-related admissions or deaths.
PMCID: PMC3218996  PMID: 21605427
10.  Staff retention after the privatization of township-village health centers: a case study from the Haimen City of East China 
Township-village health centers in rural areas play an important role in health service system in China. In East China’s Jiangsu Province, the City of Haimen privatized all 25 township-village health centers in 2002. This study assesses the effect of privatization on staff retention among these health centers.
This is a retrospective study based on 10-year administrative data from Haimen City. Three waves of administrative data were collected in 2000 (2 years before privatization), 2005 (3 years after privatization) and 2009 (7 years after privatization) for all health care providers in Haimen City, including 3 county hospitals, 6 central township health centers (CTHC) and 25 township-village health centers (TVHC). The effect of privatization on TVHCs’ staff retention was evaluated in comparison with the other two types of health care providers. We conducted focus groups with people from Haimen Bureau of Health and various health care providers to help understand the context of these administrative statistics.
Each township-village health centers had an average of 40 staff members before the privatization, and the majority of those staff members were their permanent staff. In 2005, three years after the privatization, a substantial amount of staff decrease (from 39.7 staff members per TVHC to 27.5 per TVHC) occurred in these township-village health centers. From 2000 to 2009, the total payroll in TVHCs decreased by almost 29%, while the number of their permanent staff members and nurses decreased by more than 40%. Among the two types of health care providers that did not go through a privatization, those central township health centers had no significant change on their payroll size during this period whereas the county hospitals’ average payroll size actually increased by 20%, especially for the number of doctors. In addition, the average salary and caseload in TVHC showed similar decreasing trends from 2000 to 2009, while no such trends can be observed among the other two types of providers that did not undergo privatization.
The privatization of township-village health center could have adverse effects on their staff retention, a phenomenon that occurs with a decrease in salary and caseload in these centers. To ensure that these health institutions keep providing health care for rural communities, a stronger social safety net and stronger financing of rural health insurance might be helpful in their staff retention.
PMCID: PMC3635927  PMID: 23587296
Township health center; Ownership reform; Health professional; Permanent staff
11.  Mental Illness as a Risk Factor for Uninsurance Among Mothers of Infants 
The objective of this study was to assess the extent to which maternal prenatal mental illness is associated with mothers’ health insurance status 12–18 months after giving birth. The sample consisted of 2,956 urban, mostly unwed, mothers who gave birth in 20 large U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000 and participated in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing birth cohort study. Multinomial logistic regression models were used to assess associations between maternal prenatal mental illness and whether the mother had private, public, or no insurance one year after the birth. Covariates included the mother’s and child’s physical health status, the father’s physical and mental health status, and numerous other maternal, paternal, and family characteristics. Potential mediating factors were explored. The results showed that mothers with prenatal diagnosed mental illness were almost half as likely as those without mental illness diagnoses to have private insurance (vs. no insurance) one year after the birth. Among mothers who did not have a subsequent pregnancy, those with prenatal mental illness were less likely than those without mental illness diagnoses to have public insurance than to be uninsured. Screening positive for depression or anxiety at one year decreased the likelihood that the mother had either type of insurance. Policies to improve private mental health care coverage and public mental health services among mothers with young children may yield both private and social benefits. Encounters with the health care and social service systems experienced by pregnant and postpartum women present opportunities for connecting mothers to needed mental health services and facilitating their maintenance of health insurance.
PMCID: PMC2798898  PMID: 18989764
Health insurance; Mental illness; Maternal health; Infant health; Medicaid
12.  Low-Income Fathers’ Access to Health Insurance 
We examine the prevalence and correlates of health insurance status among low-income fathers, a group not previously studied in this context. In a sample of 1,653 low-income fathers from a national urban birth cohort study, 29% had private, 14% had public, and 58% had no insurance. Privately insured fathers had greater levels of human capital than did publicly insured fathers; the latter more closely resembled uninsured fathers than they did privately insured fathers. Multinomial logistic regression analysis indicates that being older, being employed, being married, and having a job offering health insurance all increase the likelihood of having private (vs. no) insurance, and that being disabled and married to or cohabiting with the child’s mother increase the likelihood of having public (vs. no) insurance. Public policy should focus on increasing access to health insurance among low-income men, which may improve their health, productivity, and ability to support themselves and their children.
PMCID: PMC2659739  PMID: 19202254
Health insurance; low-income fathers; physical health; men’s health; mental health
13.  Change in Perceived Health Insurance Coverage Among People with Multiple Sclerosis 
International Journal of MS Care  2014;16(3):132-139.
Background: Previous research suggests that most people with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the United States have health insurance. However, little is known about their coverage or how it differs between public and private insurance. We examined whether the perceived change in health insurance coverage from the previous year differs between individuals with MS who are privately insured compared with those who are publicly insured.
Methods: We present descriptive statistics and odds ratios (ORs) from a multivariate logistic regression using data from the 2009 wave of the Sonya Slifka Longitudinal Multiple Sclerosis Study.
Results: We found that individuals with Medicare were significantly less likely to perceive worse coverage compared with those with private health insurance (OR = 0.53; P < .01). Individuals aged 55 to 64 years were more likely to perceive worse coverage than those aged 18 to 34 years (OR = 2.5; P < .05), while the odds of perceiving worse coverage were significantly lower for individuals who had been diagnosed more than 15 years previously relative to those diagnosed in the past 2 years (OR = 0.48; P < .05).
Conclusions: Individuals with MS and other chronic illnesses who can choose between public and private insurance should be aware that there are important differences in perceptions of health insurance coverage between publicly and privately insured individuals.
PMCID: PMC4204373  PMID: 25337055
14.  Impact of Insurance Type on Survivor-Focused and General Preventive Health Care Utilization in Adult Survivors of Childhood Cancer: The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) 
Cancer  2010;117(9):1966-1975.
Lack of health insurance is a key barrier to accessing care for chronic conditions and cancer screening. We examined the influence of insurance type (private, public, none) on survivor-focused and general preventive health care in adult survivors of childhood cancer.
The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study is a retrospective cohort study of childhood cancer survivors diagnosed between 1970–1986. Among 8425 adult survivors, the Relative Risk (RR), 95% confidence interval (CI) of receiving survivor-focused and general preventive health care were estimated for uninsured (n=1390) and publicly insured (n=640), comparing to privately insured (n=6395).
Uninsured survivors were less likely than privately insured to report a cancer-related (adjusted RR=0.83, 95% CI, 0.75–0.91) or a cancer center visit (adjusted RR=0.83, 95% CI, 0.71–0.98). Uninsured survivors had lower levels of utilization in all measures of care in comparison with privately insured. In contrast, publicly insured survivors were more likely to report a cancer-related (adjusted RR=1.22, 95% CI, 1.11–1.35) or a cancer center visit (adjusted RR=1.41, 95% CI, 1.18–1.70) than privately insured. While having a similar utilization level of general health examinations, publicly insured survivors were less likely to report Papanicolaou smear or dental examinations.
Among this large, socioeconomically diverse cohort, publicly insured survivors utilize survivor-focused health care at rates at least as high as survivors with private insurance. Uninsured survivors have lower utilization to both survivor-focused and general preventive health care.
PMCID: PMC3433164  PMID: 21509774
Childhood Cancer Survivors; Health Insurance; Health Care Access; Survivorship; Delivery of Health Care
15.  Cost-effectiveness of Bariatric Surgery 
Impact of Bariatric Surgery on Health Care Costs of Obese Persons: A 6-Year Follow-up of Surgical and Comparison Cohorts Using Health Plan Data
Jonathan P. Weiner, DrPH; Suzanne M. Goodwin, PhD; Hsien-Yen Chang, PhD, MHS; Shari D. Bolen, MD, MPH; Thomas M. Richards, MSEE; Roger A. Johns, MD, MHS; Soyal R. Momin, MS, MBA; Jeanne M. Clark, MD, MPH
Bariatric surgery is a well-documented treatment for obesity, but there are uncertainties about the degree to which such surgery is associated with health care cost reductions that are sustained over time.
To provide a comprehensive, multiyear analysis of health care costs by type of procedure within a large cohort of privately insured persons who underwent bariatric surgery compared with a matched nonsurgical cohort.
Longitudinal analysis of 2002–2008 claims data comparing a bariatric surgery cohort with a matched nonsurgical cohort.
Seven BlueCross BlueShield health insurance plans with a total enrollment of more than 18 million persons.
A total of 29 820 plan members who underwent bariatric surgery between January 1, 2002, and December 31, 2008, and a 1:1 matched comparison group of persons not undergoing surgery but with diagnoses closely associated with obesity.
Outcome Measures Standardized costs (overall and by type of care) and adjusted ratios of the surgical group’s costs relative to those of the comparison group.
Total costs were greater in the bariatric surgery group during the second and third years following surgery but were similar in the later years. However, the bariatric group’s prescription and office visit costs were lower and their inpatient costs were higher. Those undergoing laparoscopic surgery had lower costs in the first few years after surgery, but these differences did not persist.
Bariatric surgery does not reduce overall health care costs in the long term. Also, there is no evidence that any one type of surgery is more likely to reduce long-term health care costs. To assess the value of bariatric surgery, future studies should focus on the potential benefit of improved health and well-being of persons undergoing the procedure rather than on cost savings.
JAMA Surg. 2013;148(6):555-562.
PMCID: PMC3913095  PMID: 23989885
16.  Napa Immunization Study: Immunization Rates for Children with Publicly Funded Insurance Compared with those with Private Health Insurance in a Suburban Medical Office 
The Permanente Journal  2011;15(4):12-22.
Introduction: Healthy People 2020 set a goal to increase the proportion of children who receive the recommended doses of Diphtheria Tetanus and Pertussis, polio, measles mumps and rubella, Haemophilus influenzae type b, hepatitis B, varicella and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines to 80% from the 2009 baseline rate of 69%. The purpose of this study is to compare the recommended immunization rates for low-income children insured through publicly funded health insurance (PFI) to the rates for children with private health insurance (PHI) in a suburban medical office.
Methods: The immunization rates and health access measures of 109 children ages 24 to 48 months who had PFI were compared with 300 children of the same age with PHI in the same medical practice.
Results: Overall immunization rates for the study population were very high and exceeded the Healthy People 2020 goals for full immunization. Children with PFI had lower rates of immunization and fluoride prescriptions; however the differences were only significant in the cohort of children age two years. By three years of age, the immunization rates and the fluoride prescription rates were similar. There were no significant differences in health outcomes for Spanish-speaking compared with English-speaking children.
Discussion: Barriers to successful immunization practices and strategies to overcome those barriers are discussed.
Conclusion: The successful immunization practices and secondary outcomes in this study are a reflection of the integrated care model in this practice that facilitates comprehensive, coordinated, and accessible care for patients and allows physicians and support staff to practice culturally sensitive and compassionate care—the definition of a medical home.
PMCID: PMC3267555  PMID: 22319411
17.  The influence of partial public reimbursement on vaccination uptake in the older population: a cross-sectional study 
BMC Public Health  2015;15:83.
Flu vaccination is recommended annually for high risk groups. However, in Ireland, free access to vaccination is not universal for those in high risk groups; the vaccine and consultation are only free for those with a medical card, a means tested scheme. Few private health insurance policies cover the cost of attendance for vaccination in general practice. The aim was to examine the influence of this reimbursement policy on vaccination coverage among older adults.
Cross-sectional wave 1 data from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) were analysed (2009–2011). TILDA is a nationally representative prospective cohort study of adults aged ≥50, sampled using multistage stratified clustered sampling. Self-reported entitlement to healthcare was categorised as 1) medical card only 2) private health insurance only, 3) both and 4) neither. The outcome was responses to ‘have you ever had a flu shot’. Multivariate logistic regression was used, adjusting for age and need.
68.6% of those defined as clinically high-risk received the flu vaccination in the past (95% CI = 67-71%). Those with a medical card were almost twice as likely to have been vaccinated, controlling for age and chronic illness (OR = 1.9, 95% CI = 1.5-2.5, p = <0.001).
Having a medical card increased the likelihood of being vaccinated, independent of age and need. The mismatch between vaccination guidelines and reimbursement policy is creating unequal access to recommended services among high risk groups.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12889-015-1356-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4328256  PMID: 25652743
Influenza vaccine; Coverage; Socioeconomic status; Elderly
18.  Assessing barriers to health insurance and threats to equity in comparative perspective: The Health Insurance Access Database 
Typologies traditionally used for international comparisons of health systems often conflate many system characteristics. To capture policy changes over time and by service in health systems regulation of public and private insurance, we propose a database containing explicit, standardized indicators of policy instruments.
The Health Insurance Access Database (HIAD) will collect policy information for ten OECD countries, over a range of eight health services, from 1990–2010. Policy indicators were selected through a comprehensive literature review which identified policy instruments most likely to constitute barriers to health insurance, thus potentially posing a threat to equity. As data collection is still underway, we present here the theoretical bases and methodology adopted, with a focus on the rationale underpinning the study instruments.
These harmonized data will allow the capture of policy changes in health systems regulation of public and private insurance over time and by service. The standardization process will permit international comparisons of systems’ performance with regards to health insurance access and equity.
This research will inform and feed the current debate on the future of health care in developed countries and on the role of the private sector in these changes.
PMCID: PMC3393626  PMID: 22551599
19.  Effect of Health Insurance on the Use and Provision of Maternal Health Services and Maternal and Neonatal Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review 
Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition  2013;31(4 Suppl 2):S81-S105.
Financial barriers can affect timely access to maternal health services. Health insurance can influence the use and quality of these services and potentially improve maternal and neonatal health outcomes. We conducted a systematic review of the evidence on health insurance and its effects on the use and provision of maternal health services and on maternal and neonatal health outcomes in middle- and low-income countries. Studies were identified through a literature search in key databases and consultation with experts in healthcare financing and maternal health. Twenty-nine articles met the review criteria of focusing on health insurance and its effect on the use or quality of maternal health services, or maternal and neonatal health outcomes. Sixteen studies assessed demand-side effects of insurance, eight focused on supply-side effects, and the remainder addressed both. Geographically, the studies provided evidence from sub-Saharan Africa (n=11), Asia (n=9), Latin America (n=8), and Turkey. The studies included examples from national or social insurance schemes (n=7), government-run public health insurance schemes (n=4), community-based health insurance schemes (n=11), and private insurance (n=3). Half of the studies used econometric analyses while the remaining provided descriptive statistics or qualitative results. There is relatively consistent evidence that health insurance is positively correlated with the use of maternal health services. Only four studies used methods that can establish this causal relationship. Six studies presented suggestive evidence of overprovision of caesarean sections in response to providers’ payment incentives through health insurance. Few studies focused on the relationship between health insurance and the quality of maternal health services or maternal and neonatal health outcomes. The available evidence on the quality and health outcomes is inconclusive, given the differences in measurement, contradictory findings, and statistical limitations. Consistent with economic theories, the studies identified a positive relationship between health insurance and the use of maternal health services. However, more rigorous causal methods are needed to identify the extent to which the use of these services increases among the insured. Better measurement of quality and the use of cross-country analyses would solidify the evidence on the impact of insurance on the quality of maternal health services and maternal and neonatal health outcomes.
PMCID: PMC4021700
Access to healthcare; Antenatal care; Facility-based deliveries; Health insurance; Maternal health; Maternity benefits; Postnatal care; Quality of service
20.  Trends in Nutrition and Exercise Counseling among Adolescents in the Health Care Environment 
Purpose. Obesity is a serious health threat, particularly among racial/ethnic minorities and those who are uninsured, yet little is known about the implementation of nutrition or exercise counseling or the combination of both among these groups. Trends in counseling by race/ethnicity and types of insurance were examined. Methods. Trend analyses were conducted with the California Health Interview Surveys among those ages 12–17 for the period 2003–2009. Results. Race/Ethnicity: Receipt of both counseling methods declined from 2003–2009 for all racial/ethnic groups, except Hispanics and Whites, for whom increases in counseling began after 2007. Hispanics and African Americans generally reported higher levels of nutrition than exercise counseling, while Whites generally reported higher levels of exercise than nutrition counseling for the study period. Insurance Type: Receipt of both counseling methods appeared to decline from 2003–2009 among all insurance types, although after 2007, a slight increase was observed for the low-cost/free insurance group. Those with private health insurance generally received more exercise counseling than nutrition counseling over the study period. Conclusions. Counseling among all racial/ethnic groups and insurance types is warranted, but particularly needed for African Americans, American Indian/Alaska Natives, and the uninsured as they are at highest risk for developing obesity. Institutional and policy changes in the health care environment will be beneficial in helping to promote obesity-related counseling.
PMCID: PMC3425802  PMID: 22927870
21.  Quantifying the Impoverishing Effects of Purchasing Medicines: A Cross-Country Comparison of the Affordability of Medicines in the Developing World 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(8):e1000333.
Laurens Niëns and colleagues estimate the impoverishing effects of four medicines in 16 low- and middle-income countries using the impoverishment method as a metric of affordability and show that medicine purchases could impoverish large numbers of people.
Increasing attention is being paid to the affordability of medicines in low- and middle-income countries (LICs and MICs) where medicines are often highly priced in relation to income levels. The impoverishing effect of medicine purchases can be estimated by determining pre- and postpayment incomes, which are then compared to a poverty line. Here we estimate the impoverishing effects of four medicines in 16 LICs and MICs using the impoverishment method as a metric of affordability.
Methods and Findings
Affordability was assessed in terms of the proportion of the population being pushed below US$1.25 or US$2 per day poverty levels because of the purchase of medicines. The prices of salbutamol 100 mcg/dose inhaler, glibenclamide 5 mg cap/tab, atenolol 50 mg cap/tab, and amoxicillin 250 mg cap/tab were obtained from facility-based surveys undertaken using a standard measurement methodology. The World Bank's World Development Indicators provided household expenditure data and information on income distributions. In the countries studied, purchasing these medicines would impoverish large portions of the population (up to 86%). Originator brand products were less affordable than the lowest-priced generic equivalents. In the Philippines, for example, originator brand atenolol would push an additional 22% of the population below US$1.25 per day, whereas for the lowest priced generic equivalent this demographic shift is 7%. Given related prevalence figures, substantial numbers of people are affected by the unaffordability of medicines.
Comparing medicine prices to available income in LICs and MICs shows that medicine purchases by individuals in those countries could lead to the impoverishment of large numbers of people. Action is needed to improve medicine affordability, such as promoting the use of quality assured, low-priced generics, and establishing health insurance systems.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
In recent years, the international community has prioritized access to essential medicines, which has required focusing on the accessibility, availability, quality, and affordability of life-saving medicines and the development of appropriate data and research agendas to measure these components. Determining the degree of affordability of medicines, especially in low- and middle-income countries, is a complex process as the term affordability is vague. However, the cost of medicines is a major public health issue, especially as the majority of people in developing countries do not have health insurance and medicines freely provided through the public sector are often unavailable. Therefore, although countries have a legal obligation to make essential medicines available to those who need them at an affordable cost, poor people often have to pay for the medicines that they need when they are ill. Consequently, where medicine prices are high, people may have to forego treatment or they may go into debt if they decide to buy the necessary medicines.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted to show the impact of the cost of medicines on poorer populations by undertaking an analysis that quantified the proportion of people who would be pushed into poverty (an income level of US$1.25 or US$2 a day) because their only option is to pay out-of-pocket expenses for the life-saving medicines they need. The researchers referred to this consequence as the “impoverishing effect of a medicine.”
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers generated “impoverishment rates” of four medicines in 16 low- and middle-income countries by comparing households' daily per capita income before and after (the hypothetical) purchase of one of the following: a salbutamol 100 mcg/dose inhaler, glibenclamide 5 mg cap/tab, atenolol 50 mg cap/tab, and amoxicillin 250 mg cap/tab. This selection of drugs covers the treatment/management of three chronic diseases and one acute illness. The cost of each medicine was taken from standardized surveys, which report median patient prices for a selection of commonly used medicines in the private sector (the availability of essential medicines in the public sector is much lower so many people will depend on the private sector for their medicines) for both originator brand and lowest priced generic products. If the prepayment income was above the US$1.25 (or US$2) poverty line and the postpayment income fell below these lines, purchasing these medicines at current prices impoverishes people.
According to the results of this analysis, a substantial proportion (up to 86%) of the population in the countries studied would be pushed into poverty as a result of purchasing one of the four selected medicines. Furthermore, the lowest priced generic versions of each medicine were generally substantially more affordable than originator brand products. For example, in the Philippines, purchasing originator brand atenolol would push an additional 22% of the population below US$1.25 per day compared to 7% if the lowest priced generic equivalent was bought instead. In effect, purchasing essential medicines for both chronic and acute conditions could impoverish large numbers of people, especially if originator brand products are bought.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although the purchasing of medicines represents only part of the costs associated with the management of an illness, it is clear that the high cost of medicines have catastrophic effects on poor people. In addition, as the treatment of chronic conditions often requires a combination of medicines, the cost of treating and managing a chronic condition such as asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease is likely to be even more unaffordable than what is reported in this study. Therefore concerted action is urgently required to improve medicine affordability and prevent poor populations from being pushed further into poverty. Such action could include: governments, civil society organizations, and others making access to essential medicines more of a priority and to consider this strategy as an integral part of reducing poverty; the development, implementation, and enforcement of sound national and international price policies; actively promoting the use of quality assured, low-cost generic drugs; ensuring the availability of essential medicines in the public sector at little or no charge to poor people; establishing health insurance systems with outpatient medicine benefits; encouraging pharmaceutical companies to differentially price medicines that are still subject to patent restrictions.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
For a comprehensive resource for medicine prices, availability, and affordability, see Health Action International
Guidelines about access to essential medicines and pharmaceutical policies can be found at WHO
Transparency Alliance provides more information about medicines
Access to essential medicines has become a key campaign topic; for more information see Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders)
PMCID: PMC2930876  PMID: 20824175
22.  Treatment Use and Costs among Privately-Insured Youth with Bipolar Diagnoses 
Recent evidence suggests that children are increasingly diagnosed with bipolar disorder, yet no studies have quantified treatment costs for pediatric patients. The objectives are to identify one-year health services utilization and treatment costs among youth with new bipolar diagnoses.
MarketScan administrative claims from 2005–2007 were used to construct a retrospective person-level cohort of children ages 0–17 to identify one-year health services utilization and costs among privately insured youth with bipolar diagnoses. Inpatient and outpatient services were categorized as mental health related and non-mental health related. Pharmacy costs were classified as psychotropic or non-psychotropic.
In the sample (N=4,973), one-year mean reimbursements for health services were $10,372, and patient out-of-pocket spending $1,429 per child. Mental health services comprised 71% of all health care spending, with psychotropic medications and inpatient care contributing the largest proportions of total spending (24% and 27%, respectively).
The costs of care among privately insured children with bipolar disorder are similar to that of adults. However, spending on children is concentrated on mental health related services. Because private insurance plans have historically limited mental health service benefits, the concentration of spending on mental health services may place a greater burden on families for out of pocket payments. As mental health parity is adopted by private insurers it will be important to monitor the impact on patient utilization and costs of health services, particularly for children with severe mental illness.
PMCID: PMC4041154  PMID: 22855210
Bipolar Disorder; Utilization; Expenditures; Children; Pharmacotherapy; Epidemiology
23.  The Effect of Private Insurance on the Health of Older, Working Age Adults: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study 
Health Services Research  2006;41(3 Pt 1):759-787.
Primarily, to determine if the presence of private insurance leads to improved health status, as measured by a survey-based health score. Secondarily, to explore sensitivity of estimates to adjustments for endogeneity. The study focuses on adults in late middle age who are nearing entry into Medicare.
Data Sources
The analysis file is drawn from the Health and Retirement Study, a national survey of relatively older adults in the labor force. The dependent variable, an index of 5 health outcome items, was obtained from the 1996 survey. Independent variables were obtained from the 1992 survey. State-level instrumental variables were obtained from the Area Resources File and the TAXSIM file. The final sample consists of 9,034 individuals of which 1,540 were uninsured.
Study Design
Estimation addresses endogeneity of the insurance participation decision in health score regressions. In addition to ordinary least squares (OLS), two models are tested: an instrumental variables (IV) model, and a model with endogenous treatment effects due to Heckman (1978). Insurance participation and health behaviors enter with a lag to allow their effects to dissipate over time. Separate regressions were run for groupings of chronic conditions.
Principal Findings
The OLS model results in statistically significant albeit small effects of insurance on the computed health score, but the results may be downward biased. Adjusting for endogeneity using state-level instrumental variables yields up to a six-fold increase in the insurance effect. Results are consistent across IV and treatment effects models, and for major groupings of medical conditions. The insurance effect appears to be in the range of about 2–11 percent. There appear to be no significant differences in the insurance effect for subgroups with and without major chronic conditions.
Extending insurance coverage to working age adults may result in improved health. By conjecture, policies aimed at expanding coverage to this population may lead to improved health at retirement and entry to Medicare, potentially leading to savings. However, further research is needed to determine whether similar results are found when alternative measures of overall health or health scores are used. Future research should also explore the use of alternative instrumental variables. Preliminary results provide no justification for targeting certain subgroups with susceptibility to certain chronic conditions rather than broad policy interventions.
PMCID: PMC1713193  PMID: 16704511
Insurance; health scores; health status; endogeneity bias; instrumental variables
24.  Measuring Disparities across the Distribution of Mental Health Care Expenditures 
Previous mental health care disparities studies predominantly compare mean mental health care use across racial/ethnic groups, leaving policymakers with little information on disparities among those with a higher level of expenditures.
Aims of the Study
To identify racial/ethnic disparities among individuals at varying quantiles of mental health care expenditures. To assess whether disparities in the upper quantiles of expenditure differ by insurance status, income and education.
Data were analyzed from a nationally representative sample of white, black and Latino adults 18 years and older (n=83,878). Our dependent variable was total mental health care expenditure. We measured disparities in any mental health care expenditures, disparities in mental health care expenditure at the 95th, 97.5th, and 99th expenditure quantiles of the full population using quantile regression, and at the 50th, 75th, and 95th quantiles for positive users. In the full population, we tested interaction coefficients between race/ethnicity and income, insurance, and education levels to determine whether racial/ethnic disparities in the upper quantiles differed by income, insurance and education.
Significant Black-white and Latino-white disparities were identified in any mental health care expenditures. In the full population, moving up the quantiles of mental health care expenditures, Black-White and Latino-White disparities were reduced but remained statistically significant. No statistically significant disparities were found in analyses of positive users only. The magnitude of black-white disparities was smaller among those enrolled in public insurance programs compared to the privately insured and uninsured in the 97.5th and 99th quantiles. Disparities persist in the upper quantiles among those in higher income categories and after excluding psychiatric inpatient and emergency department (ED) visits.
Disparities exist in any mental health care and among those that use the most mental health care resources, but much of disparities seem to be driven by lack of access. The data do not allow us to disentangle whether disparities were related to white respondent’s overuse or underuse as compared to minority groups. The cross-sectional data allow us to make only associational claims about the role of insurance, income, and education in disparities. With these limitations in mind, we identified a persistence of disparities in overall expenditures even among those in the highest income categories, after controlling for mental health status and observable sociodemographic characteristics.
Implications for Health Care Provision and Use
Interventions are needed to equalize resource allocation to racial/ethnic minority patients regardless of their income, with emphasis on outreach interventions to address the disparities in access that are responsible for the no/low expenditures for even Latinos at higher levels of illness severity.
Implications for Health Policies
Increased policy efforts are needed to reduce the gap in health insurance for Latinos and improve outreach programs to enroll those in need into mental health care services.
Implications for Further Research
Future studies that conclusively disentangle overuse and appropriate use in these populations are warranted.
PMCID: PMC3662479  PMID: 23676411
25.  Work disability benefits due to musculoskeletal disorders among Brazilian private sector workers 
BMJ Open  2011;1(1):e000003.
To evaluate the prevalence and characteristics of disability benefits due to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) granted to Brazilian private sector workers.
This was a population-based epidemiological study of MSD-related benefits among registered private sector workers (n=32 959 329). The prevalence (benefits/10 000 workers/year) of work disability benefits was calculated by gender, age, state, Human Development Index (HDI), economic activity, MSD type and work-relatedness.
The prevalence of MSD-related benefits in Brazil among registered private sector workers in 2008 was 93.6/10 000 workers. The prevalence increased with age, and was higher for women (112.2) than for men (88.1), although the former had shorter benefit duration. The gender-adjusted prevalence by state varied from 16.6 to 90.3 for non-work-related, and from 7.8 to 59.6 for work-related benefits. The Brazilian states with a high–very high HDI had the highest prevalence. The top four most common types of MSD-related benefits were due to back pain, intervertebral disc disorders, sinovitis/tenosynovitis and shoulder disorders.
MSD is a frequent cause of work disability in Brazil. There were differences in prevalence among economic activities and between states grouped by HDI. This study demonstrates that further evaluation of the contributing factors associated with MSD-related disability benefits is required. Factors that should be considered include production processes, political organisation, socioeconomic and educational characteristics, the compensation and recording systems, and employee–employer power relationships. These factors may play an important role in the prevalence of MSD-related disability benefits, especially in countries with large socioeconomic iniquities such as Brazil.
Article summary
Article focus
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are a major cause of disability worldwide.
The prevalence and distribution of MSD among Brazilian workers are not well known.
This article evaluates the prevalence and characteristics of disability benefits due to MSD granted to Brazilian private sector workers.
Key messages
The prevalence of MSD-related benefits among registered Brazilian private sector workers in 2008 was 93.6/10 000 workers, with the top four most common benefits being due to back pain, intervertebral disc disorders, sinovitis/tenosynovitis and shoulder disorders.
This study demonstrates that further evaluation of the contributing factors associated with MSD-related disability benefits is required and should assess the production processes, political organisation, socioeconomic and educational characteristics, the compensation and recording systems, and employee–employer power relationships.
These factors may play an important role in the prevalence of MSD-related disability benefits, especially in countries with large socioeconomic iniquities such as Brazil.
Strengths and limitations of this study
All employed workers with a registered job in the private sector were analysed (32 959 329 workers). Prevalence was adjusted by gender, age and category of benefit (work-related or non-work-related). This initial descriptive study provides some baseline data on the magnitude of the problem. The data may be used for future comparisons and to evaluate the effectiveness of prevention programs. The strength of this paper is that it supplies information which could be useful in the implementation of an occupational health policy to reduce MSD. One of the limitations is that it only includes data from registered workers although there are many non-registered workers in Brazil. Another limitation is that this study depends on the quality of the data recorded by the National Insurer (NI) of the Brazilian Ministry of Social Insurance.
PMCID: PMC3191405  PMID: 22021719

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