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1.  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.
Background
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.
Conclusion
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
Background
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000234.
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
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000234
PMCID: PMC2821897  PMID: 20169114
2.  Expect the Unexpected: A Role for Behavioral Economics in Understanding the Impact of Cost-Sharing on Emergency Department Utilization 
American Health & Drug Benefits  2010;3(4):248-256.
Background
As employers and payers address increasing healthcare costs, they resort to the tenets of classical economics: if one increases the price for a service (defined as an individual's cost-sharing), then that individual's demand for services should decrease. This, however, may not necessarily be true, and raises the question of whether increased cost-sharing for emergency department services will lead to decreased utilization of those services as would be expected in classical economics.
Objective
To assess the effect of emergency department cost-sharing on patient utilization of emergency department services.
Method
In 2002, we retrospectively reviewed 2001 claims and identified 797 members who have had at least 2 nonemergent visits to the emergency department. This cohort was comprised of members with high emergency department utilization patterns who also had potentially differing emergency department copayment changes from one health insurance plan year to the next. Participants had to be covered by Humana for a minimum of 12 consecutive months. Of the original cohort, 415 remained covered by Humana after the end of the first year, 322 remained covered after the second year, and 194 after the end of the third year. After completions of three 12-month blocks of time with appropriate claims run out, we assessed changes in the cohort's emergency department encounters from the previous year to the current year relative to emergency department copayment changes, using matched pairs t-test.
Results
Surprisingly, in the first 12 months, reductions in emergency department copayments resulted in decreases in patient utilization (−58.3% change, P <.007), and increases in emergency department copayment resulted in an increased utilization (1096.0% change, P <.001). This unexpected trend continued in the second and third periods. Overall, in our cohort, increases in emergency department copayments were significantly associated with increased emergency department encounters by different individuals in each of the 3 study periods. In contrast, in the 2 groups with no increases in emergency department copayments, utilization of these services decreased or remained flat.
Conclusion
When assessing the need for emergency department services, many factors besides cost play a role in choosing to obtain emergency department care, including individual assessments of the probability of a given illness and the financial or temporal implications for the care sought in terms of “gains” or “losses” relative to a reference point. Behavioral economics can therefore play a role in understanding why healthcare consumers behave as they do. The implications of behavioral economics need to be factored in when considering a healthcare benefit design.
PMCID: PMC4106596  PMID: 25126317
3.  Association between Drug Insurance Cost Sharing Strategies and Outcomes in Patients with Chronic Diseases: A Systematic Review 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e89168.
Background
Prescription drugs are used in people with hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease to manage their illness. Patient cost sharing strategies such as copayments and deductibles are often employed to lower expenditures for prescription drug insurance plans, but the impact on health outcomes in these patients is unclear.
Objective
To determine the association between drug insurance and patient cost sharing strategies on medication adherence, clinical and economic outcomes in those with chronic diseases (defined herein as diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, coronary artery disease, and cerebrovascular disease).
Methods
Studies were included if they examined various cost sharing strategies including copayments, coinsurance, fixed copayments, deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket expenditures. Value-based insurance design and reference based pricing studies were excluded. Two reviewers independently identified original intervention studies (randomized controlled trials, interrupted time series, and controlled before-after designs). MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, CINAHL, and relevant reference lists were searched until March 2013. Two reviewers independently assessed studies for inclusion, quality, and extracted data. Eleven studies, assessing the impact of seven policy changes, were included: 2 separate reports of one randomized controlled trial, 4 interrupted time series, and 5 controlled before-after studies.
Findings
Outcomes included medication adherence, clinical events (myocardial infarction, stroke, death), quality of life, healthcare utilization, or cost. The heterogeneity among the studies precluded meta-analysis. Few studies reported the impact of cost sharing strategies on mortality, clinical and economic outcomes. The association between patient copayments and medication adherence varied across studies, ranging from no difference to significantly lower adherence, depending on the amount of the copayment.
Conclusion
Lowering cost sharing in patients with chronic diseases may improve adherence, but the impact on clinical and economic outcomes is uncertain.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089168
PMCID: PMC3965394  PMID: 24667163
4.  Emerging Trends in Cancer Care: Health Plans’ and Pharmacy Benefit Managers’ Perspectives on Changing Care Models 
American Health & Drug Benefits  2012;5(4):242-253.
Background
Cancer care in the United States is being transformed by a number of medical and economic trends, including rising drug costs, increasing availability of targeted therapies and oral oncolytic agents, healthcare reform legislation, changing reimbursement practices, a growing emphasis on comparative effectiveness research (CER), the emerging role of accountable care organizations (ACOs), and the increased role of personalization of cancer care.
Objective
To examine the attitudes of health plan payers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) toward recent changes in cancer care, current cost-management strategies, and anticipated changes in oncology practice during the next 5 years.
Methods
An online survey with approximately 200 questions was conducted by Reimbursement Intelligence in 2011. The survey was completed by 24 medical directors and 31 pharmacy directors from US national and regional health plans and 8 PBMs. All respondents are part of a proprietary panel of managed care decision makers and are members of the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committees of their respective plans, which together manage more than 150 million lives. Survey respondents received an honorarium for completing the survey. The survey included quantitative and qualitative questions about recent developments in oncology management, such as the impact on their plans or PBMs of healthcare reform, quality improvement initiatives, changes in reimbursement and financial incentives, use of targeted and oral oncolytics, and personalized medicine. Respondents were treated as 1 group, because there were no evident differences in responses between medical and pharmacy directors or PBMs.
Results
Overall, survey respondents expressed interest in monitoring and controlling the costs of cancer therapy, and they anticipated increased use of specialty pharmacy for oncology drugs. When clinical outcomes are similar for oral oncolytics and injectable treatments, 93% prefer the oral agents, which are covered under the specialty tier by 59% of the plans. The use of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network practice guidelines for coverage and reimbursement of oncologic agents is reported as “very frequent” by 10% of survey respondents, “frequent” by 21%, and “moderately frequent” by 7%. Most (66%) respondents believe that it is probable and 3% believe it is highly probable that healthcare reform will help to control oncology treatment costs, although 59% also predict an increase in utilization restrictions and 48% predict more stringent comparative effectiveness evidence requirements. The survey reveals a considerable uncertainty among health plans and PBMs about the eventual impact of ACOs on oncology care. Although 82% of those surveyed believe that measures such as increasing adherence to evidence-based treatments will achieve cost-savings, nearly half (48%) had no plans to use such measures.
Conclusions
Recent trends in healthcare legislation, rising drug costs, and changing reimbursement practices are poised to significantly alter conventional models of cancer care delivery and payment. The results of this survey indicate that health plans and PBMs anticipate greater use of evidence-based management strategies, including CER, quality initiatives, and biomarker testing for appropriate cancer therapy selection. In addition, they anticipate greater focus on cost control, with a greater role for utilization management and increased patient cost-sharing. Finally, there is a high level of uncertainty among plans and PBMs about the eventual impact of ACOs and other aspects of healthcare reform on oncology practice.
PMCID: PMC4046474  PMID: 24991323
5.  Cost-Sharing for Emergency Care and Unfavorable Clinical Events: Findings from the Safety and Financial Ramifications of ED Copayments Study 
Health Services Research  2006;41(5):1801-1820.
Objective
To evaluate the effect of emergency department (ED) copayment levels on ED use and unfavorable clinical events.
Data Source/Study Setting
Kaiser Permanente–Northern California (KPNC), a prepaid integrated delivery system.
Study Design
In a quasi-experimental longitudinal study with concurrent controls, we estimated rates of ED visits, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths associated with higher ED copayments relative to no copayment, using Poisson random effects and proportional hazard models, controlling for patient characteristics. The study period began in January 1999; more than half of the population experienced an employer-chosen increase in their ED copayment in January 2000.
Data Collection/Extraction Methods
Using KPNC automated databases, the 2000 U.S. Census, and California state death certificates, we collected data on ED visits and unfavorable clinical events over a 36-month period (January 1999 through December 2001) among 2,257,445 commercially insured and 261,091 Medicare insured health system members.
Principal Findings
Among commercially insured subjects, ED visits decreased 12 percent with the $20–35 copayment (95 percent confidence interval [CI]: 11–13 percent), and 23 percent with the $50–100 copayment (95 percent CI: 23–24 percent) compared with no copayment. Hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths did not increase with copayments. Hospitalizations decreased 4 percent (95 percent CI: 2–6 percent) and 10 percent (95 percent CI: 7–13 percent) with ED copayments of $20–35 and $50–100, respectively, compared with no copayment. Among Medicare subjects, ED visits decreased by 4 percent (95 percent CI: 3–6 percent) with the $20–50 copayments compared with no copayment; unfavorable clinical events did not increase with copayments, e.g., hospitalizations were unchanged (95 percent CI: −3 percent to +2 percent) with $20–50 ED copayments compared with no copayment.
Conclusions
Relatively modest levels of patient cost-sharing for ED care decreased ED visit rates without increasing the rate of unfavorable clinical events.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2006.00562.x
PMCID: PMC1955301  PMID: 16987303
Access/demand/utilization of services; observational data/quasi-experiments; health care financing/insurance/premiums; incentives in health care
6.  Who Pays for Health Care in China? The Case of Heilongjiang Province 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e108867.
Background
Health spending by the Chinese government has declined and traditional social health insurance collapsed after economic reforms in the early 1980s; accordingly, the low-income population is exposed to potentially significant healthcare costs. Financing an equitable healthcare system represents a major policy objective in China’s current healthcare reform efforts. The current research presents an examination of the distribution of healthcare financing in a north-eastern Chinese province to compare equity status between urban and rural areas at two different times.
Methods
To analyze the progressivity of healthcare financing in terms of ability-to-pay, the Kakwani index was used to assess four healthcare financing channels: general taxes, social and commercial health insurance, and out-of-pocket payments. Two rounds of surveys were conducted in 2003 (11,572 individuals in 3841 households) and 2008 (15,817 individuals in 5530 households). Household socioeconomic status, healthcare payment, and utilization information were recorded using household interviews.
Results
China’s healthcare financing equity is unsound. Kakwani indices for general taxation were -0.0212 (urban) and -0.0297 (rural) in 2002, and -0.0097 (urban) and -0.0112 (rural) in 2007. Social health insurance coverage has expanded, however different financing distributions were found with respect to urban (0.0969 in 2002 vs. 0.0984 in 2007) and rural (0.0283 in 2002 vs. -0.3119 in 2007) areas. While progressivity of out-of-pocket payments decreased in both areas, the equity of financing was found to have improved among poorer respondents.
Conclusions
Overall, China’s healthcare financing distribution is unequal. Given the inequity of general taxes, decreasing the proportion of indirect taxes would considerably improve healthcare financing equity. Financial contribution mechanisms to social health insurance are equally significant to coverage extension. The use of flat rate contributions for healthcare funding places a disproportionate pressure upon the poor. Out-of-pocket payments have become equitable, but progressivity has decreased.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0108867
PMCID: PMC4182757  PMID: 25271768
7.  Impact of a Prescription Copayment Increase on Lipid Lowering Medication Adherence in Veterans 
Circulation  2009;119(3):390-397.
Background
In February 2002, the VA increased copayments from $2 to $7 per 30-day drug supply of each medication for many veterans. We examined the impact of the copayment increase on lipid lowering medication adherence.
Methods and Results
Quasi-experimental study using electronic records of 5,604 veterans receiving care at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center from November, 1999 to April, 2004. The “All Copayment” group included veterans subject to copayments for all drugs with no annual cap. Veterans subject to copayments for drugs only if indicated for a non-service connected condition with an annual cap of $840 for out-of-pocket costs comprised the “Some Copayment” group. Veterans who remained copayment exempt formed a natural control group (“No copayment” group). Patients were identified as “adherent” if the proportion of days covered (PDC) with lipid-lowering medications was >= 80%. Patients were identified as having a “continuous gap” if they had at least one continuous episode with no lipid lowering medications for >= 90 days. A difference-indifference approach comparing changes in lipid lowering medication adherence during the 24 months pre- and post- copayment increase among veterans subject to the copayment change versus those who were not.
Adherence declined in all three groups after the copayment increase. However, the percent of patients who were adherent (PDC>=80%) declined significantly more in the all copayment (-19.2%) and some copayment (-19.3%) groups relative to the exempt group (-11.9%). The incidence of a continuous gap increased significantly at twice the rate in both copayment groups (+24.6% all copayment group and 24.1% some copayment group) than the exempt group (+11.7%). Compared to the exempt group, the odds of having a continuous gap in the post- relative to the pre-period were significantly higher in both the all copayment group (OR 3.04 95% CI 2.29-4.03) and the some copayment group (OR 1.85 95% CI 1.43-2.40). Similar results were seen in subgroups of high CHD risk patients, high medication users, and elderly veterans.
Conclusion
The copayment increase adversely impacted lipid lowering medication adherence among veterans including those at high CHD risk.
doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.108.783944
PMCID: PMC2753258  PMID: 19139387
8.  Cost-Effectiveness of Preventing Loss to Follow-up in HIV Treatment Programs: A Côte d'Ivoire Appraisal 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(10):e1000173.
Based on data from West Africa, Elena Losina and colleagues predict that interventions to reduce dropout rates from HIV treatment programs (such as eliminating copayments) will be cost-effective.
Background
Data from HIV treatment programs in resource-limited settings show extensive rates of loss to follow-up (LTFU) ranging from 5% to 40% within 6 mo of antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation. Our objective was to project the clinical impact and cost-effectiveness of interventions to prevent LTFU from HIV care in West Africa.
Methods and Findings
We used the Cost-Effectiveness of Preventing AIDS Complications (CEPAC) International model to project the clinical benefits and cost-effectiveness of LTFU-prevention programs from a payer perspective. These programs include components such as eliminating ART co-payments, eliminating charges to patients for opportunistic infection-related drugs, improving personnel training, and providing meals and reimbursing for transportation for participants. The efficacies and costs of these interventions were extensively varied in sensitivity analyses. We used World Health Organization criteria of <3× gross domestic product per capita (3× GDP per capita = US$2,823 for Côte d'Ivoire) as a plausible threshold for “cost-effectiveness.” The main results are based on a reported 18% 1-y LTFU rate. With full retention in care, projected per-person discounted life expectancy starting from age 37 y was 144.7 mo (12.1 y). Survival losses from LTFU within 1 y of ART initiation ranged from 73.9 to 80.7 mo. The intervention costing US$22/person/year (e.g., eliminating ART co-payment) would be cost-effective with an efficacy of at least 12%. An intervention costing US$77/person/year (inclusive of all the components described above) would be cost-effective with an efficacy of at least 41%.
Conclusions
Interventions that prevent LTFU in resource-limited settings would substantially improve survival and would be cost-effective by international criteria with efficacy of at least 12%–41%, depending on the cost of intervention, based on a reported 18% cumulative incidence of LTFU at 1 y after ART initiation. The commitment to start ART and treat HIV in these settings should include interventions to prevent LTFU.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has killed more than 25 million people since the first reported case in 1981. Currently, about 33 million people are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. Two-thirds of people infected with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV infects and destroys immune system cells, thereby weakening the immune system and rendering infected individuals susceptible to infection. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Combination antiretroviral therapy (ART), a mixture of antiretroviral drugs that suppress the replication of the virus in the body, is used to treat and prevent HIV infection. ART is expensive but major international efforts by governments, international organizations, and funding bodies have increased ART availability. According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, at least 9.7 million people in low- and middle-income countries need ART and as of 2007, 3 million of those people had reliable access to the drugs.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although ART is an effective treatment for HIV, a large number of individuals who initiate ART do not receive long-term follow-up care. These patients are generally sicker and have a worse long-term outcome than those who receive follow-up care. Loss to follow up (LTFU) is a significant problem that can undermine the benefits of expanding ART availability. Strategies to improve follow up concentrate on bringing lost patients back into the health care system, but such patients often die before they can be contacted. Prevention of LTFU might be a better strategy to improve HIV care after ART initiation, but there is little information available on which specific interventions might best accomplish this goal.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Given the lack of reported data on the actual costs and effectiveness of LTFU prevention, the researchers used a model to estimate the clinical impact and cost-effectiveness of several possible strategies to prevent LTFU in HIV-infected persons receiving ART in Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa. The researchers used the previously developed Cost-Effectiveness of Preventing AIDS Complications (CEPAC) computer simulation model and combined it with data from a program of ART delivery in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. They then projected the clinical benefits and the cost required to attain a given level of benefit (cost-effectiveness ratio) of different LTFU-prevention strategies from the perspective of the payer (the organization that pays all the medical costs to provide care). Several interventions were considered, including reducing costs to patients (eliminating patient co-payments and paying for transportation) and increasing services to patients at their visits (improving staff training in HIV care, and providing meals at clinic times). LTFU was predicted to cause a 54.3%–58.3% reduction in the estimated life expectancy beyond age 37; patients continuing HIV care were predicted to live a further 144.7 months whie those lost to follow up by 1 year after ART initiation were predicted to live only for a further 73.9–80.7 months. LTFU-prevention strategies in the Côte d'Ivoire were deemed to be cost-effective if they cost less than $2,823 (which is 3× gross domestic product per capita) per year of life saved. The efficacy and cost of the different LTFU-prevention strategies varied in the analyses; stopping ART co-payment alone would be cost-effective at a cost of $22/person/year if it reduced LTFU rates by 12%, while including all the LTFU-prevention strategies described would be cost-effective at $77/person/year if they reduced LTFU-rates by 41%.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings suggest that moderately effective strategies for preventing LTFU in resource-limited settings would improve survival, provide good value for money, and should be used to improve HIV treatment programs. Although modeling is valuable to explore the costs and effectiveness of LTFU-prevention strategies it cannot replace the need for more reported data to shed light on problems leading to LTFU and the prevention strategies required to combat it. Also, Côte d'Ivoire might not be representative of all West African countries or resource-limited settings. A similar analysis using data from other ART programs in different countries would be useful to provide better understanding of the impact of LTFU in HIV treatment programs. Finally, the research highlights the cost of second-line ART (a new antiretroviral drug combination for patients in whom first-line treatment fails) as a crucial issue. It is estimated that 5% of all people receiving ART in low- and middle-income countries receive second-line ART and these numbers are expected to increase. Second-line ART had major effects on cost-effectiveness, and a reduction in the cost of this treatment is critical in order to guarantee continued access to HIV treatment.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000173.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Gregory Bisson and Jeffrey Stringer
WHO provides information on disease prevention, treatment, and HIV/AIDS programs and projects
The UN Millennium Development Goals project site contains information on worldwide efforts to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS
aidsmap, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, provides information on HIV and supporting those living with HIV
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000173
PMCID: PMC2762030  PMID: 19859538
9.  Perspectives in Value-Based Insurance Design for Patients with Diabetes: Assessment and Application 
Background
Value-based insurance design initiatives have been developed in an effort to reduce long-term healthcare costs and improve health quality. Value-based insurance design promotes the use of services or therapies that have been shown to have clinical benefits that outweigh the cost, such as encouraging medication adherence, and discourages those that produce results that do not justify the cost.
Objective
The goal of this analysis is to determine the impact of value-based insurance design as it relates specifically to drug therapy, including adherence, for patients with diabetes.
Method
This article analyzes data collected by Milliman, a large actuarial group, using MedStat claims, National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, and its own 2008 health cost guidelines to develop an actuarial assessment of value-based insurance design programs for diabetes care and therapy. This assessment models the impact that copay structures and other management techniques have on adherence and incremental costs. The model provides a framework for assessing the value of benefits and directs patients toward cost-effective services supported by strong evidence-based medicine.
Discussion
Analysis of actuarial modeling shows that adjusting patient copayment designs is in line with other value-based approaches designed to improve patient care and reduce long-term costs. Evidence from value-based insurance design initiatives suggests that reducing patient copayment has the potential to improve clinical outcomes, including medication adherence, and reduce overall healthcare costs.
Conclusion
This analysis, coupled with results from other value-based insurance design initiatives and related research, provides support for employers and health insurance plans to consider adopting value-based insurance design programs for patients with diabetes to improve quality of care, while potentially reducing healthcare costs.
PMCID: PMC4106561  PMID: 25126335
10.  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.
Introduction
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.
Conclusions
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
Background
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001244.
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
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001244
PMCID: PMC3378609  PMID: 22723748
11.  Health equity in an unequal country: the use of medical services in Chile 
Introduction
A recent health reform was implemented in Chile (the AUGE reform) with the objective of reducing the socioeconomic gaps to access healthcare. This reform did not seek to eliminate the private insurance system, which coexists with the public one, but to ensure minimum conditions of access to the entire population, at a reasonable cost and with a quality guarantee, to cover an important group of health conditions. This paper’s main objective is to enquire what has happened with the use of several healthcare services after the reform was fully implemented.
Methods
Concentration and Horizontal Inequity indices were estimated for the use of general practitioners, specialists, emergency room visits, laboratory and x-ray exams and hospitalization days. The change in such indices (pre and post-reform) was decomposed, following Zhong (2010). A “mean effect” (how these indices would change if the differential use in healthcare services were evenly distributed) and a “distribution effect” (how these indices would change with no change in average use) were obtained.
Results
Changes in concentration indices were mainly due to mean effects for all cases, except for specialists (where “distribution effect” prevailed) and hospitalization days (where none of these effects prevailed over others). This implies that by providing more services across socioeconomic groups, less inequality in the use of services was achieved. On the other hand, changes in horizontal inequity indices were due to distribution effects in the case of GP, ER visits and hospitalization days; and due to mean effect in the case of x-rays. In the first three cases indices reduced their pro-poorness implying that after the reform relatively higher socioeconomic groups used these services more (in relation to their needs). In the case of x-rays, increased use was responsible for improving its horizontal inequity index.
Conclusions
The increase in the average use of healthcare services after the AUGE reform has not always led to improved equity in the use of such services in most services. This indicates that there are still barriers to the equitable use of healthcare services (e.g. insufficient medical human resources, financial barriers, capacity constraints, etc.) that have remained after the reform.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-11-81
PMCID: PMC3544610  PMID: 23249481
Equity; Inequality; Healthcare use; Chile; Household surveys
12.  Medicare Part D and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program: A Comparison of Prescription Drug Coverage 
Background
There is much debate currently about how to restructure the Medicare program to achieve better value for the money. Many have cited the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) as a model for reform.
Objective
To compare drug coverage and cost-sharing between Medicare Part D and the FEHBP plans.
Methods
A cross-sectional comparison was conducted of January 2009 data obtained from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Office of Personnel Management, and 3 health plan websites. Regression analysis and t-tests were used to examine drug coverage, copayment, and coinsurance amounts among Medicare Part D and FEHBP plans. The final study sample of Medicare Part D plans consisted of 19 formularies, covering 63% of total Part D enrollment. These 19 formularies represented 232 stand-alone prescription drug plans. In addition, 5 prescription drug plans or formularies in the FEHBP plans were included, which represents 70% of total FEHBP enrollment.
Results
The results of this study reveal that formulary coverage of the top drugs dispensed and sold in the United States in 2009 ranged from 72% to 94% (average, 84%) in Medicare Part D plans and from 85% to 99% (average, 94%) in the FEHBP plans (P <.01). The mean copayment for generic drugs in Medicare Part D plans was $4.53 compared with a mean of $7.67 (P <.05) in the FEHBP plans. The difference between the 2 programs in mean copayment for brand-name drugs was nonsignificant. For generic drugs, the mean coinsurance rate was 17% for Medicare Part D plans and a mean of 20% for the FEHBP plans (P <.05).
Conclusions
This analysis shows that there are differences in prescription drug coverage and cost-sharing among plans within Medicare Part D and the FEHBP. To avoid extreme increases in payroll taxes and other revenues or major cutbacks in services, Medicare must explore ways to change the healthcare system to achieve better value for the money. The experience of the FEHBP suggests a possible means of accomplishing this objective.
PMCID: PMC4031701  PMID: 24991346
13.  Systematic review: Effects, design choices, and context of pay-for-performance in health care 
Background
Pay-for-performance (P4P) is one of the primary tools used to support healthcare delivery reform. Substantial heterogeneity exists in the development and implementation of P4P in health care and its effects. This paper summarizes evidence, obtained from studies published between January 1990 and July 2009, concerning P4P effects, as well as evidence on the impact of design choices and contextual mediators on these effects. Effect domains include clinical effectiveness, access and equity, coordination and continuity, patient-centeredness, and cost-effectiveness.
Methods
The systematic review made use of electronic database searching, reference screening, forward citation tracking and expert consultation. The following databases were searched: Cochrane Library, EconLit, Embase, Medline, PsychINFO, and Web of Science. Studies that evaluate P4P effects in primary care or acute hospital care medicine were included. Papers concerning other target groups or settings, having no empirical evaluation design or not complying with the P4P definition were excluded. According to study design nine validated quality appraisal tools and reporting statements were applied. Data were extracted and summarized into evidence tables independently by two reviewers.
Results
One hundred twenty-eight evaluation studies provide a large body of evidence -to be interpreted with caution- concerning the effects of P4P on clinical effectiveness and equity of care. However, less evidence on the impact on coordination, continuity, patient-centeredness and cost-effectiveness was found. P4P effects can be judged to be encouraging or disappointing, depending on the primary mission of the P4P program: supporting minimal quality standards and/or boosting quality improvement. Moreover, the effects of P4P interventions varied according to design choices and characteristics of the context in which it was introduced.
Future P4P programs should (1) select and define P4P targets on the basis of baseline room for improvement, (2) make use of process and (intermediary) outcome indicators as target measures, (3) involve stakeholders and communicate information about the programs thoroughly and directly, (4) implement a uniform P4P design across payers, (5) focus on both quality improvement and achievement, and (6) distribute incentives to the individual and/or team level.
Conclusions
P4P programs result in the full spectrum of possible effects for specific targets, from absent or negligible to strongly beneficial. Based on the evidence the review has provided further indications on how effect findings are likely to relate to P4P design choices and context. The provided best practice hypotheses should be tested in future research.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-247
PMCID: PMC2936378  PMID: 20731816
14.  Balancing influence between actors in healthcare decision making 
Background
Healthcare costs in most developed countries are not clearly linked to better patient and public health outcomes, but are rather associated with service delivery orientation. In the U.S. this has resulted in large variation in healthcare availability and use, increased cost, reduced employer participation in health insurance programs, and reduced overall population health outcomes. Recent U.S. healthcare reform legislation addresses only some of these issues. Other countries face similar healthcare issues.
Discussion
A major goal of healthcare is to enhance patient health outcomes. This objective is not realized in many countries because incentives and structures are currently not aligned for maximizing population health. The misalignment occurs because of the competing interests between "actors" in healthcare. In a simplified model these are individuals motivated to enhance their own health; enterprises (including a mix of nonprofit, for profit and government providers, payers, and suppliers, etc.) motivated by profit, political, organizational and other forces; and government which often acts in the conflicting roles of a healthcare payer and provider in addition to its role as the representative and protector of the people. An imbalance exists between the actors, due to the resources and information control of the enterprise and government actors relative to the individual and the public. Failure to use effective preventive interventions is perhaps the best example of the misalignment of incentives. We consider the current Pareto efficient balance between the actors in relation to the Pareto frontier, and show that a significant change in the healthcare market requires major changes in the utilities of the enterprise and government actors.
Summary
A variety of actions are necessary for maximizing population health within the constraints of available resources and the current balance between the actors. These actions include improved transparency of all aspects of medical decision making, greater involvement of patients in shared medical decision making, greater oversight of guideline development and coverage decisions, limitations on direct to consumer advertising, and the need for an enhanced role of the government as the public advocate.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-85
PMCID: PMC3108374  PMID: 21504599
15.  Clinical Benefits, Costs, and Cost-Effectiveness of Neonatal Intensive Care in Mexico 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(12):e1000379.
Joshua Salomon and colleagues performed a cost-effectiveness analysis using health and economic outcomes following preterm birth in Mexico and showed that neonatal intensive care provided high value for the money in this setting.
Background
Neonatal intensive care improves survival, but is associated with high costs and disability amongst survivors. Recent health reform in Mexico launched a new subsidized insurance program, necessitating informed choices on the different interventions that might be covered by the program, including neonatal intensive care. The purpose of this study was to estimate the clinical outcomes, costs, and cost-effectiveness of neonatal intensive care in Mexico.
Methods and Findings
A cost-effectiveness analysis was conducted using a decision analytic model of health and economic outcomes following preterm birth. Model parameters governing health outcomes were estimated from Mexican vital registration and hospital discharge databases, supplemented with meta-analyses and systematic reviews from the published literature. Costs were estimated on the basis of data provided by the Ministry of Health in Mexico and World Health Organization price lists, supplemented with published studies from other countries as needed. The model estimated changes in clinical outcomes, life expectancy, disability-free life expectancy, lifetime costs, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) for neonatal intensive care compared to no intensive care. Uncertainty around the results was characterized using one-way sensitivity analyses and a multivariate probabilistic sensitivity analysis. In the base-case analysis, neonatal intensive care for infants born at 24–26, 27–29, and 30–33 weeks gestational age prolonged life expectancy by 28, 43, and 34 years and averted 9, 15, and 12 DALYs, at incremental costs per infant of US$11,400, US$9,500, and US$3,000, respectively, compared to an alternative of no intensive care. The ICERs of neonatal intensive care at 24–26, 27–29, and 30–33 weeks were US$1,200, US$650, and US$240, per DALY averted, respectively. The findings were robust to variation in parameter values over wide ranges in sensitivity analyses.
Conclusions
Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios for neonatal intensive care imply very high value for money on the basis of conventional benchmarks for cost-effectiveness analysis.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Most pregnancies last about 40 weeks but increasing numbers of babies are being born preterm, before they reach 37 weeks of gestation (the period during which a baby develops in its mother). In developed countries and some middle-income countries such as Mexico, improvements in the care of newborn babies (neonatal intensive care) mean that more preterm babies survive now than in the past. Nevertheless, preterm birth is still a major cause of infant death worldwide that challenges attainment of Target 5 of Millennium Development Goal 4—the reduction of the global under-five mortality rate by two-thirds of the 1990 rate by 2015 (the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, aim to reduce world poverty). Furthermore, many preterm babies who survive have long-term health problems and disabilities such as cerebral palsy, deafness, or learning difficulties. The severity of these disabilities and their long-term costs to families and to society depend on the baby's degree of prematurity.
Why Was This Study Done?
Mexico recently reformed its health system in an effort to improve access to care, particularly for the poorest sections of its population, and to improve the quality of its health care. The central component of this health care reform is the System of Social Protection of Health (SSPH). The SSPH contains a family health insurance program—Seguro Popular—that aims to provide the 50 million uninsured people living in Mexico with free access to an explicit set of health care interventions. As with any insurance program, decisions have to be made about which interventions Seguro Poplar should cover. Should neonatal intensive care be covered, for example? Do the benefits of this intervention (increased survival of babies) outweigh the costs of neonatal care and of long-term care for survivors with disabilities? In other words, is neonatal intensive care cost-effective? In this study, the researchers investigate this question by estimating the clinical benefits, costs, and cost-effectiveness of neonatal intensive care in Mexico.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers built a decision analytic model, a mathematical model that combines evidence on the outcomes and costs of alternative treatments to help inform decisions about health care policy. They gathered data about the health outcomes of preterm births in Mexico from registers of births and deaths and from hospital discharge databases, and estimated the costs of neonatal intensive care and long-term care for disabled survivors using data from the Mexican Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization. They then applied their model, which estimates changes in parameters such as life expectancy, lifetime costs, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs; one DALY represents the loss of a year of healthy life), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs; the additional cost expended for each DALY averted) for neonatal intensive care compared to no intensive care, to a group of 2 million infants. Neonatal intensive care for infants born at 24–26, 27–29, and 30–33 weeks gestation prolonged life expectancy by 28, 43, and 34 years and averted 9, 15, and 12 DALYs at incremental costs of US$11,000, US$10,000, and US$3000, respectively, compared to no intensive care. The ICERs of neonatal intensive care for babies born at these times were US$1200, US$700, and US$300 per DALY averted, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Interventions with ICERs of less than a country's per capita gross domestic product (GDP) are highly cost-effective; those with ICERs of 1–3 times the per capita GDP are potentially cost-effective. Mexico's per capita GDP in 2005 was approximately US$8,200. Thus, neonatal intensive care could provide exceptional value for money in Mexico (and maybe in other middle-income countries), even for very premature babies. The accuracy of these findings inevitably depends on the assumptions used to build the decision analytic model and on the accuracy of the data fed into it, but the findings were little changed by a wide range of alterations that the researchers made to the model. Importantly, however, this cost-effectiveness analysis focuses on health and economic consequences of different intervention choices, and does not capture all aspects of well-being. Decisions regarding neonatal intensive care will need to be based on a full consideration of all relevant factors, including ethical issues, and cost-effectiveness analyses should continue to be updated as new data emerge on health outcomes and costs associated with neonatal intensive care.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000379.
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish)
The Nemours Foundation, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to other information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) works for children's rights, survival, development and protection around the world; it provides information on Millennium Development Goal 4 and its Childinfo website provides detailed statistics about child survival and health (some information in several languages)
A PLoS Medicine Policy Forum by Núria Homedes and Antonio Ugalde discusses health care reforms in Mexico
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000379
PMCID: PMC3001895  PMID: 21179496
16.  Socio-economic status and health care utilization in rural Zimbabwe: findings from Project Accept (HPTN 043) 
Zimbabwe’s HIV epidemic is amongst the worst in the world, and disproportionately effects poorer rural areas. Access to almost all health services in Zimbabwe includes some form of cost to the client. In recent years, the socio-economic and employment status of many Zimbabweans has suffered a serious decline, creating additional barriers to HIV treatment and care. We aimed to assess the impact of i) socio-economic status (SES) and ii) employment status on the utilization of health services in rural Zimbabwe. Data were collected from a random probability sample household survey conducted in the Mutoko district of north-western Zimbabwe in 2005. We selected variables that described the economic status of the respondent, including: being paid to work, employment status, and SES by assets. Respondents were also asked about where they most often utilized healthcare when they or their family was sick or hurt. Of 2,874 respondents, all forms of healthcare tended to be utilized by those of high or medium-high SES (65%), including private (65%), church-based (61%), traditional (67%), and other providers (66%) (P=0.009). Most respondents of low SES utilized government providers (74%) (P=0.009). Seventy-one percent of respondents utilizing health services were employed. Government (71%), private (72%), church (71%), community-based (78%) and other (64%) health services tended to be utilized by employed respondents (P=0.000). Only traditional health services were equally utilized by unemployed respondents (50%) (P=0.000). A wide range of health providers are utilized in rural Zimbabwe. Utilization is strongly associated with SES and employment status, particularly for services with user fees, which may act as a barrier to HIV treatment and care access. Efforts to improve access in low-SES, high HIV-prevalence settings may benefit from the subsidization of the health care payment system, efforts to improve SES levels, political reform, and the involvement of traditional providers.
doi:10.4081/jphia.2012.e13
PMCID: PMC3436598  PMID: 22962629
Africa; socio-economic status; HIV/AIDS; access
17.  New evidence on financing equity in China's health care reform - A case study on Gansu province, China 
Background
In the transition from a planned economy to a market-oriented economy, China’s state funding for health care declined and traditional coverage plans collapsed, leaving China’s poor exposed to potentially ruinous health care costs. In reforming health care for the 21st century, equity in health care financing has become a major policy goal. To assess progress towards this goal, this paper examines the equity characteristics of health care financing in a province of northwestern China, comparing the equity performance between urban and rural areas at two different points in time.
Methods
Analysis of whether health care financing contributions were progressive according to income were made using the Kakwani index for each of the four health care financing channels of general taxes, public and private health insurance, and out-of-pocket payments. Two rounds of surveys were conducted, the first in 2003 (13,619 individuals in 3946 households) and the second in 2008 (12,973 individuals in 3958 households). Household socio-economic, health care payment, and utilization information were recorded in household interviews.
Results
Low-income households have undertaken a larger share of the health care financing burden in recent years, reflected by negative Kakwani indices, which indicate a regressive system. We found that the indices for general taxation were −0.0024 (urban) and −0.0281 (rural) in 2002, and −0.0177 (urban) and −0.0097 (rural) in 2007. Public health insurance presented different financing distributions in urban and rural areas (urban: 0.0742 in 2002, 0.0661 in 2007; rural: –0.0615 in 2002,–0.1436 in 2007.). Out-of-pocket payments were progressive but not equitable. Public health insurance coverage has expanded but financing equity has decreased.
Conclusions
Health care financing policies in China need ongoing reform. Given the inequity of general consumption taxes, elimination of these would improve financing equity considerably. Optimizing benefit packages in public health insurance is as important as expanding coverage, both for health care financing and for utilization management as well. Although they are progressive, out-of-pocket payments are not equitable in China and have the effect of excluding the poor from health care as they cannot afford to pay for medical care and so withdraw from treatment.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-466
PMCID: PMC3562140  PMID: 23244513
Equity; Chinese health care reform; Financing; Kakwani index
18.  Ensuring Quality Cancer Care: A Follow-Up Review of the Institute of Medicine’s Ten Recommendations for Improving the Quality of Cancer Care in America 
Cancer  2011;118(10):2571-2582.
Responding to growing concerns regarding the safety, quality, and efficacy of cancer care in the United States, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences commissioned a comprehensive review of cancer care delivery in the US healthcare system in the late 1990s. The National Cancer Policy Board (NCPB), a twenty-member board with broad representation, performed this review. In its review, the NCPB focused on the state of cancer care delivery at that time, its shortcomings, and ways to measure and improve the quality of cancer care. The NCPB described an ideal cancer care system, where patients would have equitable access to coordinated, guideline-based care and novel therapies throughout the course of their disease. In 1999, the IOM published the results of this review in its influential report, Ensuring Quality Cancer Care. This report outlined ten recommendations, which, when implemented, would: 1) improve the quality of cancer care; 2) increase our understanding of quality cancer care; and, 3) reduce or eliminate access barriers to quality cancer care.
Despite the fervor generated by this report, there are lingering doubts regarding the safety and quality of cancer care in the United States today. Increased awareness of medical errors and barriers to quality care, coupled with escalating healthcare costs, has prompted national efforts to reform the healthcare system. These efforts by healthcare providers and policymakers should bridge the gap between the ideal state described in Ensuring Quality Cancer Care and the current state of cancer care in the United States.
doi:10.1002/cncr.26536
PMCID: PMC3272132  PMID: 22045610
Oncology Service; Hospital; Quality of Health Care; Benchmarking; Guideline Adherence; Medically Uninsured; Palliative Care; Comparative Effectiveness Research
19.  Oral Health Care Reform in Finland – aiming to reduce inequity in care provision 
BMC Oral Health  2008;8:3.
Background
In Finland, dental services are provided by a public (PDS) and a private sector. In the past, children, young adults and special needs groups were entitled to care and treatment from the public dental services (PDS). A major reform in 2001 – 2002 opened the PDS and extended subsidies for private dental services to all adults. It aimed to increase equity by improving adults' access to oral health care and reducing cost barriers. The aim of this study was to assess the impacts of the reform on the utilization of publicly funded and private dental services, numbers and distribution of personnel and costs in 2000 and in 2004, before and after the oral health care reform. An evaluation was made of how the health political goals of the reform: integrating oral health care into general health care, improving adults' access to care and lowering cost barriers had been fulfilled during the study period.
Methods
National registers were used as data sources for the study. Use of dental services, personnel resources and costs in 2000 (before the reform) and in 2004 (after the reform) were compared.
Results
In 2000, when access to publicly subsidised dental services was restricted to those born in 1956 or later, every third adult used the PDS or subsidised private services. By 2004, when subsidies had been extended to the whole adult population, this increased to almost every second adult. The PDS reported having seen 118 076 more adult patients in 2004 than in 2000. The private sector had the same number of patients but 542 656 of them had not previously been entitled to partial reimbursement of fees.
The use of both public and subsidised private services increased most in big cities and urban municipalities where access to the PDS had been poor and the number of private practitioners was high. The PDS employed more dentists (6.5%) and the number of private practitioners fell by 6.9%. The total dental care expenditure (PDS plus private) increased by 21% during the study period. Private patients who had previously not been entitled to reimbursements seemed to gain most from the reform.
Conclusion
The results of this study indicate that implementation of a substantial reform, that changes the traditionally defined tasks of the public and private sectors in an established oral health care provision system, proceeds slowly, is expensive and probably requires more stringent steering than was the case in Finland 2001 – 2004. However, the equity and fairness of the oral health care provision system improved and access to services and cost-sharing improved slightly.
doi:10.1186/1472-6831-8-3
PMCID: PMC2268684  PMID: 18226197
20.  Healthcare Reform and the Next Generation: United States Medical Student Attitudes toward the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e23557.
Context
Over one year after passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), legislators, healthcare experts, physicians, and the general public continue to debate the implications of the law and its repeal. The PPACA will have a significant impact on future physicians, yet medical student perspectives on the legislation have not been well documented.
Objective
To evaluate medical students' understanding of and attitudes toward healthcare reform and the PPACA including issues of quality, access and cost.
Design, Setting, and Participants
An anonymous electronic survey was sent to medical students at 10 medical schools (total of 6982 students) between October–December 2010, with 1232 students responding and a response rate of 18%.
Main Outcome Measures
Medical students' views and attitudes regarding the PPACA and related topics, measured with Likert scale and open response items.
Results
Of medical students surveyed, 94.8% agreed that the existing United States healthcare system needs to be reformed, 31.4% believed the PPACA will improve healthcare quality, while 20.9% disagreed and almost half (47.7%) were unsure if quality will be improved. Two thirds (67.6%) believed that the PPACA will increase access, 6.5% disagreed and the remaining 25.9% were unsure. With regard to containing healthcare costs, 45.4% of participants indicated that they are unsure if the provisions of the PPACA will do so. Overall, 80.1% of respondents indicated that they support the PPACA, and 78.3% also indicated that they did not feel that reform efforts had gone far enough. A majority of respondents (58.8%) opposed repeal of the PPACA, while 15.0% supported repeal, and 26.1% were undecided.
Conclusion
The overwhelming majority of medical students recognized healthcare reform is needed and expressed support for the PPACA but echoed concerns about whether it will address issues of quality or cost containment.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023557
PMCID: PMC3172206  PMID: 21931604
21.  Health care and equity in India 
Lancet  2011;377(9764):505-515.
India’s health system faces the ongoing challenge of responding to the needs of the most disadvantaged members of Indian society. Despite progress in improving access to health care, inequalities by socioeconomic status, geography and gender continue to persist. This is compounded by high out-of-pocket expenditures, with the rising financial burden of health care falling overwhelming on private households, which account for more than three-quarter of health spending in India. Health expenditures are responsible for more than half of Indian households falling into poverty; the impact of this has been increasing pushing around 39 million Indians into poverty each year. In this paper, we identify key challenges to equity in service delivery, and equity in financing and financial risk protection in India. These include imbalanced resource allocation, limited physical access to quality health services and inadequate human resources for health; high out-of-pocket health expenditures, health spending inflation, and behavioral factors that affect the demand for appropriate health care. Complementing other paper in this Series, we argue for the application of certain principles in the pursuit of equity in health care in India. These are the adoption of equity metrics in monitoring, evaluation and strategic planning, investment in developing a rigorous knowledge-base of health systems research; development of more equity-focused process of deliberative decision-making in health reform, and redefinition of the specific responsibilities and accountabilities of key actors. The implementation of these principles, together with strengthening of public health and primary care services, provide an approach for ensuring more equitable health care for India’s population.
doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)61894-6
PMCID: PMC3093249  PMID: 21227492
22.  Can the ubiquitous power of mobile phones be used to improve health outcomes in developing countries? 
Background
The ongoing policy debate about the value of communications technology in promoting development objectives is diverse. Some view computer/web/phone communications technology as insufficient to solve development problems while others view communications technology as assisting all sections of the population. This paper looks at evidence to support or refute the idea that fixed and mobile telephones is, or could be, an effective healthcare intervention in developing countries.
Methods
A Web-based and library database search was undertaken including the following databases: MEDLINE, CINAHL, (nursing & allied health), Evidence Based Medicine (EBM), POPLINE, BIOSIS, and Web of Science, AIDSearch (MEDLINE AIDS/HIV Subset, AIDSTRIALS & AIDSDRUGS) databases.
Results
Evidence can be found to both support and refute the proposition that fixed and mobile telephones is, or could be, an effective healthcare intervention in developing countries. It is difficult to generalize because of the different outcome measurements and the small number of controlled studies. There is almost no literature on using mobile telephones as a healthcare intervention for HIV, TB, malaria, and chronic conditions in developing countries. Clinical outcomes are rarely measured. Convincing evidence regarding the overall cost-effectiveness of mobile phone " telemedicine" is still limited and good-quality studies are rare. Evidence of the cost effectiveness of such interventions to improve adherence to medicines is also quite weak.
Conclusion
The developed world model of personal ownership of a phone may not be appropriate to the developing world in which shared mobile telephone use is important. Sharing may be a serious drawback to use of mobile telephones as a healthcare intervention in terms of stigma and privacy, but its magnitude is unknown. One advantage, however, of telephones with respect to adherence to medicine in chronic care models is its ability to create a multi-way interaction between patient and provider(s) and thus facilitate the dynamic nature of this relationship. Regulatory reforms required for proper operation of basic and value-added telecommunications services are a priority if mobile telecommunications are to be used for healthcare initiatives.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-2-9
PMCID: PMC1524730  PMID: 16719925
23.  Analysis of the ‘reformpool’-activity in Austria: is the challenge met? 
Aim
The purpose of our study is to analyse the activities initiated by the foundation of the reformpools on the regional level. We wanted to see not only what projects have emerged from these funds, but also how the incentives of this special way of funding influence the activity and what overall impact can be expected on health services delivery in the future.
Context
In Austria, all expenses in the outpatient sector are borne by the statutory health insurance. But in the inpatient sector, SHI just co-finances about 45% of all costs incurred by patients, with the rest contributed by the federal, regional and municipal level. This, however, leads to a number of problems in today's epidemiological situation with patients in need of many different interventions in the course of their chronic disease.
Originally with the aim of finding solutions to these interface problems between inpatient and outpatient care, the healthcare reform 2005 instated the instrument of the reformpool. The reformpool unites funds from social health insurance and regions to finance projects that develop new ways of health services delivery across the sectors. In the course of recent reforms, it became explicitly possible to sponsor projects of integrated care, which had de facto already been the case before.
Theory
The reform pool has various disincentives or wrong incentives compared to e.g. the German ‘Anschubfinanzierung’ for IC-contracts, which was probably a role-model for the Austrian reformpool, because of the underlying differences in the healthcare system and the distinct differences in the regulation. For example, the ‘Anschubfinanzierung’ in Germany withdraws money from the available funds for contract physicians to finance IC-projects, whereas in Austria, their fees are fixed. So in Austria, there is no incentive to retrieve money by participating in such projects. For the stakeholders supplying the pool, mainly the sickness funds and the regions, many projects inflict additional costs on the one or on the other in the future. So as both parties have to agree on projects, there is a strong basic disincentive to grant funds in the present. If a project is in both their interest because it is reducing costs, the care providers might not be interested to participate, as this would diminish their revenues in the future. What is more, the federal control over the (region-based) funds and projects is poor, which might lead to duplication of efforts and missing scale-efficiency in some regions.
Methods and data
For our analysis, we conducted a survey with a standardised questionnaire sent to the management of the regional health funds, which are responsible for the reformpool funds. The questionnaire was checked by experts of the federal association of social security institutions. We also conducted an on-site visit of the reformpool-manager, a programme which can be used to evaluate the reformpool-projects. In addition, we used all available evaluation reports of projects to assess the situation of evaluation of the projects. Furthermore, we used financial data from the regional health funds, the federal association of social security institutions, from the ministry of health and the regional health funds to assess the usage of the reformpool.
(Preliminary) Results
The qualitative results are mixed. Some projects are promising with regard to improvements of the current situation and are well evaluated. Many projects neglect the requirement of the reformpool to be such as to yield a monetary benefit for the system but only focus on improving service delivery. Some evaluations are not well operationalised and thus, arguments why these projects should be transformed to ordinarily financed services will be lacking. The reformpool activity set on very slowly, with only one project already started in 2005, the first possible year. In 2007 we see the highest number (23) of new projects granted and the highest monetary volume, €11 Mio total for 21 of them 1, with activity subsiding in 2008 (6 projects with a volume of € 2.5 Mio total for 5 of them 1) and most certainly in 2009 (with diminishing tax revenues and health insurance contributions) with only one project granted in the first quarter of the year. Of all funds (theoretically) available, only about 16% have been put to use in a reformpool project per year, with high variation (e.g. in the region of Styria over 30%, in Tyrol only 1.5%).
(Preliminary) Conclusions
From our study we can tell that the instrument of reformpool was not devised well concerning its incentive structure, and the interest to conduct such projects is diminishing. Stricter control of the requirements by the federal level, more pronounced requirements, a dedication of the funds to projects instead of a virtual budget and more cooperation between regions could improve the effectiveness of the instrument. Conflicts of interest: The project was funded by the federal association of social security institutions. All authors are researchers at the IHS and hold no commercial interests in the subject. Additional information: Founded by the economist Oskar Morgenstern and the sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld, the IHS (Institute for Advanced Studies) is a non-profit post-graduate teaching and research facility in the fields of economics, sociology and politology, and one of the two Austrian institutes preparing the official economic forecast for Austria. For more than a decade, it has been one of the major research facilities in the fields of health economics and health policy in Austria.
PMCID: PMC2807071
evidence-based guidelines; quality of care
24.  An evaluation of gender equity in different models of primary care practices in Ontario 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:151.
Background
The World Health Organization calls for more work evaluating the effect of health care reforms on gender equity in developed countries. We performed this evaluation in Ontario, Canada where primary care models resulting from reforms co-exist.
Methods
This cross sectional study of primary care practices uses data collected in 2005-2006. Healthcare service models included in the study consist of fee for service (FFS) based, salaried, and capitation based. We compared the quality of care delivered to women and men in practices of each model. We performed multi-level, multivariate regressions adjusting for patient socio-demographic and economic factors to evaluate vertical equity, and adjusting for these and health factors in evaluating horizontal equity. We measured seven dimensions of health service delivery (e.g. accessibility and continuity) and three dimensions of quality of care using patient surveys (n = 5,361) and chart abstractions (n = 4,108).
Results
Health service delivery measures were comparable in women and men, with differences ≤ 2.2% in all seven dimensions and in all models. Significant gender differences in the health promotion subjects addressed were observed. Female specific preventive manoeuvres were more likely to be performed than other preventive care. Men attending FFS practices were more likely to receive influenza immunization than women (Adjusted odds ratio: 1.75, 95% confidence intervals (CI) 1.05, 2.92). There was no difference in the other three prevention indicators. FFS practices were also more likely to provide recommended care for chronic diseases to men than women (Adjusted difference of -11.2%, CI -21.7, -0.8). A similar trend was observed in Community Health Centers (CHC).
Conclusions
The observed differences in the type of health promotion subjects discussed are likely an appropriate response to the differential healthcare needs between genders. Chronic disease care is non equitable in FFS but not in capitation based models. We recommend that efforts to monitor and address gender based differences in the delivery of chronic disease management in primary care be pursued.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-151
PMCID: PMC2856534  PMID: 20331861
25.  Interventions designed to improve the quality and efficiency of medication use in managed care: A critical review of the literature – 2001–2007 
Background
Managed care organizations use a variety of strategies to reduce the cost and improve the quality of medication use. The effectiveness of such policies is not well understood. The objective of this research was to update a previous systematic review of interventions, published between 1966 and 2001, to improve the quality and efficiency of medication use in the US managed care setting.
Methods
We searched MEDLINE and EMBASE for publications from July 2001 to January 2007 describing interventions targeting drug use conducted in the US managed care setting. We categorized studies by intervention type and adequacy of research design using commonly accepted criteria. We summarized the outcomes of well-controlled strategies and documented the significance and magnitude of effects for key study outcomes.
Results
We identified 164 papers published during the six-year period. Predominant strategies were: educational interventions (n = 20, including dissemination of educational materials, and group or one-to-one educational outreach); monitoring and feedback (n = 22, including audit/feedback and computerized monitoring); formulary interventions (n = 66, including tiered formulary and patient copayment); collaborative care involving pharmacists (n = 15); and disease management with pharmacotherapy as a primary focus (n = 41, including care for depression, asthma, and peptic ulcer disease). Overall, 51 studies met minimum criteria for methodological adequacy. Effective interventions included one-to-one academic detailing, computerized alerts and reminders, pharmacist-led collaborative care, and multifaceted disease management. Further, changes in formulary tier-design and related increases in copayments were associated with reductions in medication use and increased out-of-pocket spending by patients. The dissemination of educational materials alone had little or no impact, while the impact of group education was inconclusive.
Conclusion
There is good evidence for the effectiveness of several strategies in changing drug use in the managed care environment. However, little is known about the cost-effectiveness of these interventions. Computerized alerts showed promise in improving short-term outcomes but little is known about longer-term outcomes. Few well-designed, published studies have assessed the potential negative clinical effects of formulary-related interventions despite their widespread use. However, some evidence suggests increases in cost sharing reduce access to essential medicines for chronic illness.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-75
PMCID: PMC2323373  PMID: 18394200

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