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1.  New evidence on financing equity in China's health care reform - A case study on Gansu province, China 
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3562140  PMID: 23244513
Equity; Chinese health care reform; Financing; Kakwani index
2.  Survey of social health insurance structure in selected countries; providing framework for basic health insurance in Iran 
Introduction and Objectives:
Health system reforms are the most strategic issue that has been seriously considered in healthcare systems in order to reduce costs and increase efficiency and effectiveness. The costs of health system finance in our country, lack of universal coverage in health insurance, and related issues necessitate reforms in our health system financing. The aim of this research was to prepare a structure of framework for social health insurance in Iran and conducting a comparative study in selected countries with social health insurance.
Materials and Methods:
This comparative descriptive study was conducted in three phases. The first phase of the study examined the structure of health social insurance in four countries – Germany, South Korea, Egypt, and Australia. The second phase was to develop an initial model, which was designed to determine the shared and distinguishing points of the investigated structures, for health insurance in Iran. The third phase was to validate the final research model. The developed model by the Delphi method was given to 20 professionals in financing of the health system, health economics and management of healthcare services. Their comments were collected in two stages and its validity was confirmed.
The study of the structure of health insurance in the selected countries shows that health social insurance in different countries have different structures. Based on the findings of the present study, the current situation of the health system, and the conducted surveys, the following framework is suitable for the health social insurance system in Iran. The Health Social Insurance Organization has a unique service by having five funds of governmental employees, companies and NGOs, self-insured, villagers, and others, which serves as a nongovernmental organization under the supervision of public law and by decision- and policy-making of the Health Insurance Supreme Council. Membership in this organization is based on the nationality or residence, which the insured by paying the insurance premiums within 6-10% of their income and employment status, are entitled to use the services. Providing services to the insured are performed by indirect forms. Payments to the service providers for the fee of inpatient and outpatient services are conservative and the related diagnostic groups system.
Paying attention to the importance of modification of the fragmented health insurance system and financing the country's healthcare can reduce much of the failure of the health system, including the access of the public to health services. The countries according to the degree of development, governmental, and private insurance companies and existing rules must use the appropriate structure, comprehensive approach to the structure, and financing of the health social insurance on the investigated basis and careful attention to the intersections and differentiation. Studied structures, using them in the proposed approach and taking advantages of the perspectives of different beneficiaries about discussed topics can be important and efficient in order to achieve the goals of the health social insurance.
PMCID: PMC4275610  PMID: 25540789
Health insurance; health insurance structure; insurance; selected countries
3.  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
4.  Promoting universal financial protection: evidence from seven low- and middle-income countries on factors facilitating or hindering progress 
Although universal health coverage (UHC) is a global health policy priority, there remains limited evidence on UHC reforms in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This paper provides an overview of key insights from case studies in this thematic series, undertaken in seven LMICs (Costa Rica, Georgia, India, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Thailand) at very different stages in the transition to UHC.
These studies highlight the importance of increasing pre-payment funding through tax funding and sometimes mandatory insurance contributions when trying to improve financial protection by reducing out-of-pocket payments. Increased tax funding is particularly important if efforts are being made to extend financial protection to those outside formal-sector employment, raising questions about the value of pursuing contributory insurance schemes for this group. The prioritisation of insurance scheme coverage for civil servants in the first instance in some LMICs also raises questions about the most appropriate use of limited government funds.
The diverse reforms in these countries provide some insights into experiences with policies targeted at the poor compared with universalist reform approaches. Countries that have made the greatest progress to UHC, such as Costa Rica and Thailand, made an explicit commitment to ensuring financial protection and access to needed care for the entire population as soon as possible, while this was not necessarily the case in countries adopting targeted reforms. There also tends to be less fragmentation in funding pools in countries adopting a universalist rather than targeting approach. Apart from limiting cross-subsidies, fragmentation of pools has contributed to differential benefit packages, leading to inequities in access to needed care and financial protection across population groups; once such differentials are entrenched, they are difficult to overcome. Capacity constraints, particularly in purchasing organisations, are a pervasive problem in LMICs. The case studies also highlighted the critical role of high-level political leadership in pursuing UHC policies and citizen support in sustaining these policies.
This series demonstrates the value of promoting greater sharing of experiences on UHC reforms across LMICs. It also identifies key areas of future research on health care financing in LMICs that would support progress towards UHC.
PMCID: PMC3848816  PMID: 24228762
Financial protection; Low- and middle-income countries; Policy analysis; Pooling; Purchasing; Revenue collection; Universal health coverage
5.  Who Pays for Health Care in China? The Case of Heilongjiang Province 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e108867.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC4182757  PMID: 25271768
6.  Promoting universal financial protection: a case study of new management of community health insurance in Tanzania 
The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), a compulsory formal sector scheme took over the management of the Community Health Fund (CHF), a voluntary informal sector scheme, in 2009. This study assesses the origins of the reform, its effect on management and reporting structures, financial flow adequacy, reform communication and acceptability to key stakeholders, and initial progress towards universal coverage.
The study relied on national data sources and an in-depth collective case study of a rural and an urban district to assess awareness and acceptability of the reform, and fund availability and use relative to need in a sample of facilities.
The reform was driven by a national desire to expand coverage and increase access to services. Despite initial delays, the CHF has been embedded within the NHIF organisational structure, bringing more intensive and qualified supervision closer to the district. National CHF membership has more than doubled. However, awareness of the reform was limited below the district level due to the reform’s top-down nature. The reform was generally acceptable to key stakeholders, who expected that benefits between schemes would be harmonised.
The reform was unable to institute changes to the CHF design or district management structures because it has so far been unable to change CHF legislation which also limits facility capacity to use CHF revenue. Further, revenue generated is currently insufficient to offset treatment and administration costs, and the reform did not improve the revenue to cost ratio. Administrative costs are also likely to have increased as a result of the reform.
Informal sector schemes can benefit from merger with formal sector schemes through improved data systems, supervision, and management support. However, effects will be maximised if legal frameworks can be harmonised early on and a reduction in administrative costs is not guaranteed.
PMCID: PMC3686629  PMID: 23763711
Financing; Health insurance; Informal sector; Merger; Reform; Tanzania
7.  Urban health insurance reform and coverage in China using data from National Health Services Surveys in 1998 and 2003 
In 1997 there was a major reform of the government run urban health insurance system in China. The principal aims of the reform were to widen coverage of health insurance for the urban employed and contain medical costs. Following this reform there has been a transition from the dual system of the Government Insurance Scheme (GIS) and Labour Insurance Scheme (LIS) to the new Urban Employee Basic Health Insurance Scheme (BHIS).
This paper uses data from the National Health Services Surveys of 1998 and 2003 to examine the impact of the reform on population coverage. Particular attention is paid to coverage in terms of gender, age, employment status, and income levels. Following a description of the data between the two years, the paper will discuss the relationship between the insurance reform and the growing inequities in population coverage.
An examination of the data reveals a number of key points:
a) The overall coverage of the newly established scheme has decreased from 1998 to 2003.
b) The proportion of the urban population without any type of health insurance arrangement remained almost the same between 1998 and 2003 in spite of the aim of the 1997 reform to increase the population coverage.
c) Higher levels of participation in mainstream insurance schemes (i.e. GIS-LIS and BHIS) were identified among older age groups, males and high income groups. In some cases, the inequities in the system are increasing.
d) There has been an increase in coverage of the urban population by non-mainstream health insurance schemes, including non-commercial and commercial ones.
The paper discusses three important issues in relation to urban insurance coverage: institutional diversity in the forms of insurance, labour force policy and the non-mainstream forms of commercial and non-commercial forms of insurance.
The paper concludes that the huge economic development and expansion has not resulted in a reduced disparity in health insurance coverage, and that limited cross-group subsidy and regional inequality is possible. Unless effective measures are taken, vulnerable groups such as women, low income groups, employees based on short-term contracts and rural-urban migrant workers may well be left out of sharing the social and economic development.
PMCID: PMC1828155  PMID: 17335584
8.  Health Insurance Coverage and Impact: A Survey in Three Cities in China 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39157.
China has one of the world's largest health insurance systems, composed of government-run basic health insurance and commercial health insurance. The basic health insurance has undergone system-wide reform in recent years. Meanwhile, there is also significant development in the commercial health insurance sector. A phone call survey was conducted in three major cities in China in July and August, 2011. The goal was to provide an updated description of the effect of health insurance on the population covered. Of special interest were insurance coverage, gross and out-of-pocket medical cost and coping strategies.
Records on 5,097 households were collected. Analysis showed that smaller households, higher income, lower expense, presence of at least one inpatient treatment and living in rural areas were significantly associated with a lower overall coverage rate. In the separate analysis of basic and commercial health insurance, similar factors were found to have significant associations. Higher income, presence of chronic disease, presence of inpatient treatment, higher coverage rates and living in urban areas were significantly associated with higher gross medical cost. A similar set of factors were significantly associated with higher out-of-pocket cost. Households with lower income, inpatient treatment, higher commercial insurance coverage, and living in rural areas were significantly more likely to pursue coping strategies other than salary.
The surveyed cities and surrounding rural areas had socioeconomic status far above China's average. However, there was still a need to further improve coverage. Even for households with coverage, there was considerable out-of-pocket medical cost, particularly for households with inpatient treatments and/or chronic diseases. A small percentage of households were unable to self-finance out-of-pocket medical cost. Such observations suggest possible targets for further improving the health insurance system.
PMCID: PMC3377611  PMID: 22723954
9.  Who pays for health care in Ghana? 
Financial protection against the cost of unforeseen ill health has become a global concern as expressed in the 2005 World Health Assembly resolution (WHA58.33), which urges its member states to "plan the transition to universal coverage of their citizens". An important element of financial risk protection is to distribute health care financing fairly in relation to ability to pay. The distribution of health care financing burden across socio-economic groups has been estimated for European countries, the USA and Asia. Until recently there was no such analysis in Africa and this paper seeks to contribute to filling this gap. It presents the first comprehensive analysis of the distribution of health care financing in relation to ability to pay in Ghana.
Secondary data from the Ghana Living Standard Survey (GLSS) 2005/2006 were used. This was triangulated with data from the Ministry of Finance and other relevant sources, and further complemented with primary household data collected in six districts. We implored standard methodologies (including Kakwani index and test for dominance) for assessing progressivity in health care financing in this paper.
Ghana's health care financing system is generally progressive. The progressivity of health financing is driven largely by the overall progressivity of taxes, which account for close to 50% of health care funding. The national health insurance (NHI) levy (part of VAT) is mildly progressive and formal sector NHI payroll deductions are also progressive. However, informal sector NHI contributions were found to be regressive. Out-of-pocket payments, which account for 45% of funding, are regressive form of health payment to households.
For Ghana to attain adequate financial risk protection and ultimately achieve universal coverage, it needs to extend pre-payment cover to all in the informal sector, possibly through funding their contributions entirely from tax, and address other issues affecting the expansion of the National Health Insurance. Furthermore, the pre-payment funding pool for health care needs to grow so budgetary allocation to the health sector can be enhanced.
PMCID: PMC3142212  PMID: 21708026
10.  Health financing in Africa: overview of a dialogue among high level policy makers 
BMC Proceedings  2011;5(Suppl 5):S2.
Even though Africa has the highest disease burden compared with other regions, it has the lowest per capita spending on health. In 2007, 27 (51%) out the 53 countries spent less than US$50 per person on health. Almost 30% of the total health expenditure came from governments, 50% from private sources (of which 71% was from out-of-pocket payments by households) and 20% from donors. The purpose of this article is to reflect on the proceedings of the African Union Side Event on Health Financing in the African continent.
Methods employed in the session included presentations, panel discussion and open public discussion with ministers of health and finance from the African continent.
The current unsatisfactory state of health financing was attributed to lack of clear vision and plan for health financing; lack of national health accounts and other evidence to guide development and implementation of national health financing policies and strategies; low investments in sectors that address social determinants of health; predominance of out-of-pocket spending; underdeveloped prepaid health financing mechanisms; large informal sectors vis-à-vis small formal sectors; and unpredictability and non-alignment of majority of donor funds with national health priorities.
Countries need to develop and adopt a comprehensive national health policy and a costed strategic plan; a comprehensive evidence-based health financing strategy; allocate at least 15% of the national budget to health development; use GFATM and PEPFAR funds for health systems strengthening; strengthen intersectoral collaboration to address health determinants; advocate among donors to implement the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and its Accra Agenda for Action; ensure universal access to health services for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children aged under five years; strengthen financial management capacities; and develop prepaid health financing systems, especially health insurance to complement tax funding.
In addition, countries need to institutionalize national health accounts; undertake feasibility studies of various health financing mechanisms; and document and share best practices in health financing.
There was consensus that every country ought to have an evidence-based comprehensive health financing strategy with a road map for attaining universal health service coverage vision; and increase physical and financial access by pregnant women, lactating mothers and by children under five years to quality health services.
PMCID: PMC3254896  PMID: 21810212
11.  Analysis of government investment in primary healthcare institutions to promote equity during the three-year health reform program in China 
The World Health Report 2000 stated that increased public financing for healthcare was an integral part of the efforts to achieve equity of access. In 2009, the Chinese government launched a three-year health reform program to achieve equity of access. Through this reform program, the government intended to increase its investment in primary healthcare institutions (PHIs). However, reports about the outcome and the improvement of the equity of access have yet to be presented.
Stratified sampling was employed in this research. The samples used for the study comprised 34 community health service centers (CHSCs) and 92 township hospitals (THs) from six provinces of China. Collected data, which were publicly available, consisted of the total revenue, financial revenue, and the number of people for the periods covering January 2010 to September 2010 and January 2011 to September 2011. Revenue information for 2009 and 2010 was obtained from China’s Health Statistics Yearbook.
By using indicators such as government investment, government finance proportion and per capita revenue, t-tests for paired and independent samples were used to analyze the changes in government investment.
Government invest large amount of money to the primary healthcare institutions. Government finance proportion in 2008 was 18.2%. This percentage increased to 38.84% in 2011, indicating statistical significance (p = 0.000) between 2010 and 2011. The per capita financial input was 20.92 yuan in 2010 and 31.10 yuan in 2011. Compared with the figures from 2008 to 2010, the gap in different health sectors narrowed in 2011, and differences emerged. The government finance proportion in CHSCs revenue was 6.9% higher than that of THs, while the per capita revenue of CHSCs was higher. In 2011, the highest and lowest government finance proportions were 48.80% (Shaanxi) and 19.36% (Shandong), respectively. In that same year, the per capita revenue of Shaanxi (40.69 Yuan) was higher than that of Liaoning (28.79 Yuan). Comparing the 2011 figures with those from 2008 to 2010, the gap in 2011 clearly narrowed.
In the three-year health reform program, the Chinese government increased its investment to PHIs gradually and significantly. Thus promote equity to access and universal coverage. However, the increase in government investment stemmed from political desire and from the lack of institutionalization of practice and experience. Hence, a mode of financial allocation must be formulated to promote consistency in government input after the three-year health reform program.
PMCID: PMC3614483  PMID: 23530658
12.  Family income and crowd out among children enrolled in Massachusetts Children's Medical Security Plan. 
Health Services Research  2001;36(6 Pt 2):45-63.
OBJECTIVE: To assess whether participation in a state publicly financed health insurance program, Massachusetts Children's Medical Security Plan (CMSP) , which is open to children regardless of income, was associated with disenrollment from private insurance. DATA SOURCES/STUDY DESIGN: A survey of participants in CMSP who were enrolled as of April 1998 was used. We conducted analyses to detect differences in access to and uptake of private insurance between Medicaid-eligible and in eligible children, and between children eligible for the State Children's Health insurance Program (SCHIP) and in eligible children. DATA COLLECTION METHODS: A stratified sample of children was drawn from administrative files. the sampling strategy allowed us to examine crowd out among children based on in come and eligibility for publicly funded coverage: those who were Medicaid-eligible (income pound 133 percent of the federal poverty level [FPL]) , those who were SCHIP-eligible (134-200 percent of FPL) , and those with family in comes that exceed SCHIP eligibility criteria (> 200 percent of FPL). The majority of telephone interviews were conducted with the child's parent/guardian between November 1998 and March 1999. The overall response rate was 61.8 percent , yielding a sample of 996 children. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Of the children in our sample whose recent health coverage was employer-sponsored insurance (59 percent), 70 percent were no longer eligible. Few children who had employer-sponsored insurance at enrollment dropped this coverage to enroll in CM SP (1 percent, 4 percent, and 2 percent by income). Compared to Medicaid-eligible children, children with incomes > 133 percent of FPL were significantly more likely to be eligible for employer-sponsored insurance but they were no more likely to have purchased offered coverage. Access to employer-sponsored insurance was limited (19 percent), and uptake was low (13 percent). We found no significant difference between SCHIP-eligible children and those whose family incomes exceeded SCHIP guidelines. CONCLUSIONS: The Massachusetts experience suggests that (1) coverage could be expanded to children with incomes up to 200 percent of FPL with little direct substitution of public coverage for private insurance, and (2) substitution among children with incomes > 200 percent of FPL, who paid a premium that may have restrained crowd out, did not differ from that among SCHIP-eligible children.
PMCID: PMC1383606  PMID: 16148960
13.  Regulatory barriers to equity in a health system in transition: a qualitative study in Bulgaria 
Health reforms in Bulgaria have introduced major changes to the financing, delivery and regulation of health care. As in many other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, these included introducing general practice, establishing a health insurance system, reorganizing hospital services, and setting up new payment mechanisms for providers, including patient co-payments. Our study explored perceptions of regulatory barriers to equity in Bulgarian child health services.
50 qualitative in-depth interviews with users, providers and policy-makers concerned with child health services in Bulgaria, conducted in two villages, one town of 70,000 inhabitants, and the capital Sofia.
The participants in our study reported a variety of regulatory barriers which undermined the principles of equity and, as far as the health insurance system is concerned, solidarity. These included non-participation in the compulsory health insurance system, informal payments, and charging user fees to exempted patients. The participants also reported seemingly unnecessary treatments in the growing private sector. These regulatory failures were associated with the fast pace of reforms, lack of consultation, inadequate public financing of the health system, a perceived "commercialization" of medicine, and weak enforcement of legislation. A recurrent theme from the interviews was the need for better information about patient rights and services covered by the health insurance system.
Regulatory barriers to equity and compliance in daily practice deserve more attention from policy-makers when embarking on health reforms. New financing sources and an increasing role of the private sector need to be accompanied by an appropriate and enforceable regulatory framework to control the behavior of health care providers and ensure equity in access to health services.
PMCID: PMC3184627  PMID: 21923930
14.  Community perceptions of health insurance and their preferred design features: implications for the design of universal health coverage reforms in Kenya 
Health insurance is currently being considered as a mechanism for promoting progress to universal health coverage (UHC) in many African countries. The concept of health insurance is relatively new in Africa, it is hardly well understood and remains unclear how it will function in countries where the majority of the population work outside the formal sector. Kenya has been considering introducing a national health insurance scheme (NHIS) since 2004. Progress has been slow, but commitment to achieve UHC through a NHIS remains. This study contributes to this process by exploring communities’ understanding and perceptions of health insurance and their preferred designs features. Communities are the major beneficiaries of UHC reforms. Kenyans should understand the implications of health financing reforms and their preferred design features considered to ensure acceptability and sustainability.
Data presented in this paper are part of a study that explored feasibility of health insurance in Kenya. Data collection methods included a cross-sectional household survey (n = 594 households) and focus group discussions (n = 16).
About half of the household survey respondents had at least one member in a health insurance scheme. There was high awareness of health insurance schemes but limited knowledge of how health insurance functions as well as understanding of key concepts related to income and risk cross-subsidization. Wide dissatisfaction with the public health system was reported. However, the government was the most preferred and trusted agency for collecting revenue as part of a NHIS. People preferred a comprehensive benefit package that included inpatient and outpatient care with no co-payments. Affordability of premiums, timing of contributions and the extent to which population needs would be met under a contributory scheme were major issues of concern for a NHIS design. Possibilities of funding health care through tax instead of NHIS were raised and preferred by the majority.
This study provides important information on community understanding and perceptions of health insurance. As Kenya continues to prepare for UHC, it is important that communities are educated and engaged to ensure that the NHIS is acceptable to the population it serves.
PMCID: PMC3842821  PMID: 24219335
15.  Health equity in Lebanon: a microeconomic analysis 
The health sector in Lebanon suffers from high levels of spending and is acknowledged to be a source of fiscal waste. Lebanon initiated a series of health sector reforms which aim at containing the fiscal waste caused by high and inefficient public health expenditures. Yet these reforms do not address the issues of health equity in use and coverage of healthcare services, which appear to be acute. This paper takes a closer look at the micro-level inequities in the use of healthcare, in access, in ability to pay, and in some health outcomes.
We use data from the 2004/2005 Multi Purpose Survey of Households in Lebanon to conduct health equity analysis, including equity in need, access and outcomes. We briefly describe the data and explain some of its limitations. We examine, in turn, and using standardization techniques, the equity in health care utilization, the impact of catastrophic health payments on household wellbeing, the effect of health payment on household impoverishment, the equity implications of existing health financing methods, and health characteristics by geographical region.
We find that the incidence of disability decreases steadily across expenditure quintiles, whereas the incidence of chronic disease shows the opposite pattern, which may be an indication of better diagnostics for higher quintiles. The presence of any health-related expenditure is regressive while the magnitude of out-of-pocket expenditures on health is progressive. Spending on health is found to be "normal" and income-elastic. Catastrophic health payments are likelier among disadvantaged groups (in terms of income, geography and gender). However, the cash amounts of catastrophic payments are progressive. Poverty is associated with lower insurance coverage for both private and public insurance. While the insured seem to spend an average of almost LL93,000 ($62) on health a year in excess of the uninsured, they devote a smaller proportion of their expenditures to health.
The lowest quintiles of expenditures per adult have less of an ability to pay out-of-pocket for healthcare, and yet incur healthcare expenditures more often than the wealthy. They have lower rates of insurance coverage, causing them to spend a larger proportion of their expenditures on health, and further confirming our results on the vulnerability of the bottom quintiles.
PMCID: PMC2864280  PMID: 20398278
16.  U.S. Physicians’ Views on Financing Options to Expand Health Insurance Coverage: A National Survey 
Physician opinion can influence the prospects for health care reform, yet there are few recent data on physician views on reform proposals or access to medical care in the United States.
To assess physician views on financing options for expanding health care coverage and on access to health care.
Nationally representative mail survey conducted between March 2007 and October 2007 of U.S. physicians engaged in direct patient care.
Rated support for reform options including financial incentives to induce individuals to purchase health insurance and single-payer national health insurance; rated views of several dimensions of access to care.
1,675 of 3,300 physicians responded (50.8%). Only 9% of physicians preferred the current employer-based financing system. Forty-nine percent favored either tax incentives or penalties to encourage the purchase of medical insurance, and 42% preferred a government-run, taxpayer-financed single-payer national health insurance program. The majority of respondents believed that all Americans should receive needed medical care regardless of ability to pay (89%); 33% believed that the uninsured currently have access to needed care. Nearly one fifth of respondents (19.3%) believed that even the insured lack access to needed care. Views about access were independently associated with support for single-payer national health insurance.
The vast majority of physicians surveyed supported a change in the health care financing system. While a plurality support the use of financial incentives, a substantial proportion support single payer national health insurance. These findings challenge the perception that fundamental restructuring of the U.S. health care financing system receives little acceptance by physicians.
PMCID: PMC2659157  PMID: 19184240
access to care; health care reform; physician behavior
17.  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
18.  Out-of-pocket health spending by poor and near-poor elderly Medicare beneficiaries. 
Health Services Research  1999;34(1 Pt 2):241-254.
OBJECTIVE: To estimate out-of-pocket health care spending by lower-income Medicare beneficiaries, and to examine spending variations between those who receive Medicaid assistance and those who do not receive such aid. DATA SOURCES AND COLLECTION: 1993 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) Cost and Use files, supplemented with data from the Bureau of the Census (Current Population Survey); the Congressional Budget Office; the Health Care Financing Administration, Office of the Actuary (National Health Accounts); and the Social Security Administration. STUDY DESIGN: We analyzed out-of-pocket spending through a Medicare Benefits Simulation model, which projects out-of-pocket health care spending from the 1993 MCBS to 1997. Out-of-pocket health care spending is defined to include Medicare deductibles and coinsurance; premiums for private insurance, Medicare Part B, and Medicare HMOs; payments for non-covered goods and services; and balance billing by physicians. It excludes the costs of home care and nursing facility services, as well as indirect tax payments toward health care financing. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Almost 60 percent of beneficiaries with incomes below the poverty level did not receive Medicaid assistance in 1997. We estimate that these beneficiaries spent, on average, about half their income out-of-pocket for health care, whether they were enrolled in a Medicare HMO or in the traditional fee-for-service program. The 75 percent of beneficiaries with incomes between 100 and 125 percent of the poverty level who were not enrolled in Medicaid spent an estimated 30 percent of their income out-of-pocket on health care if they were in the traditional program and about 23 percent of their income if they were enrolled in a Medicare HMO. Average out-of-pocket spending among fee-for-service beneficiaries varied depending on whether beneficiaries had Medigap policies, employer-provided supplemental insurance, or no supplemental coverage. Those without supplemental coverage spent more on health care goods and services, but spent less than the other groups on prescription drugs and dental care-services not covered by Medicare. CONCLUSIONS: While Medicaid provides substantial protection for some lower-income Medicare beneficiaries, out-of-pocket health care spending continues to be a substantial burden for most of this population. Medicare reform discussions that focus on shifting more costs to beneficiaries should take into account the dramatic costs of health care already faced by this vulnerable population.
PMCID: PMC1088998  PMID: 10199672
19.  How Did Welfare Reform Affect the Health Insurance Coverage of Women and Children? 
Health Services Research  2006;41(2):486-506.
To measure the change in U.S. women and children's health insurance coverage as a result of welfare reform (i.e. the creation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF) in 1996.
Data Source
1992–1999 longitudinal data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) merged with data on the timing of state implementation of welfare reform after 1996. Two key advantages of the SIPP data are that they permit matching type of insurance coverage to the welfare policy environment in each state in each month, and permit controlling for individual-level fixed effects.
Study Design
We measure how much insurance coverage changed after welfare reform using a difference in differences method that eliminates the influence of time-invariant unobserved individual heterogeneity and of statewide trends in insurance coverage. Models also control for individual, state, and year fixed effects, individual-level characteristics such as education, age, and number of children, plus state-level variables such as real per capita income, real minimum wage, and Medicaid eligibility.
Data Collection/Extraction Methods
We limit our analysis to the SIPP data specific to the month just completed prior to the interview; as a result, we have up to twelve observations for each individual in the SIPP. This paper uses pooled data from the 1992–1996 panels of the SIPP covering the period 1992–1999. Publicly available state identifiers permit the merger of state policies and macroeconomic variables with the SIPP.
Principal Findings
TANF implementation is associated with an 8.1 percent increase in the probability that a welfare-eligible woman was uninsured. Welfare reform had less of an impact on the health insurance coverage of children. For example, TANF implementation was associated with a 3.0 percent increase in the probability that a welfare-eligible child lacked health insurance.
An unintended consequence of welfare reform was to adversely impact the health insurance coverage of economically vulnerable women and children, and that this impact was several times larger than the previous literature implies.
PMCID: PMC1702522  PMID: 16584461
Health insurance; welfare reform; SCHIP; medicaid
20.  Historical account of the national health insurance formulation in Kenya: experiences from the past decade 
Many Low-and-Middle-Income countries are considering reviewing their health financing systems to meet the principles of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). One financing mechanism, which has dominated UHC reforms, is the development of health insurance schemes. We trace the historical development of the National Health Insurance (NHI) policy, illuminate stakeholders’ perceptions on the design to inform future development of health financing policies in Kenya.
We conducted a retrospective policy analysis of the development of a NHI policy in Kenya using data from document reviews and seven in depth interviews with key stakeholders involved in the NHI design. Analysis was conducted using a thematic framework.
The design of a NHI scheme was marked by complex interaction of the actor’s understanding of the design, proposed implementation strategies and the covert opposition of the reform due to several reasons. First, actor’s perception of the cost of the NHI design and its implication to the economy generated opposition. This was due to inadequate communication strategies to articulate the policy, leading to a vacuum of factual information flow to various players. Secondly, perceived fear of implications of the changes among private sector players threatened support and success gained. Thirdly, underlying mistrust associated with perceived lack of government’s commitment towards transparency and good governance affected active engagement of all key players dampening the spirit of collective bargain breeding opposition. Finally, some international actors perceived a clash of their role and that of international programs based on vertical approaches that were inherent in the health system.
The thrust towards UHC using NHI schemes should not only focus on the design of a viable NHI package but should also involve stakeholder engagements, devise ways of improving the health care system, enhance transparency and develop adequate governance structures to institutions mandated to provide leadership in the reform process to overcome covert opposition.
PMCID: PMC4332452
Health insurance; Universal health care coverage; Policy Analysis
21.  Determinants for participation in a public health insurance program among residents of urban slums in Nairobi, Kenya: results from a cross-sectional survey 
The government of Kenya is making plans to implement a social health insurance program by transforming the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) into a universal health coverage program. This paper examines the determinants associated with participation in the NHIF among residents of urban slums in Nairobi city.
The study used data from the Nairobi Urban Health and Demographic Surveillance System in two slums in Nairobi city, where a total of about 60,000 individuals living in approximately 23,000 households are under surveillance. Descriptive statistics and multivariate logistic regression analysis were used to describe the characteristics of the sample and to identify factors associated with participation in the NHIF program.
Only 10% of the respondents were participating in the NHIF program, while less than 1% (0.8%) had private insurance coverage. The majority of the respondents (89%) did not have any type of insurance coverage. Females were more likely to participate in the NHIF program (OR = 2.4; p < 0.001), while respondents who were formerly in a union (OR = 0.5; p < 0.05) and who were never in a union (OR = 0.6; p < 0.05) were less likely to have public insurance coverage. Respondents working in the formal employment sector (OR = 4.1; p < 0.001) were more likely to be enrolled in the NHIF program compared to those in the informal sector. Membership in microfinance institutions such as savings and credit cooperative organizations (SACCOs) and community-based savings and credit groups were important determinants of access to health insurance.
The proportion of slum residents without any type of insurance is high, which underscores the need for a social health insurance program to ensure equitable access to health care among the poor and vulnerable segments of the population. As the Kenyan government moves toward transforming the NHIF into a universal health program, it is important to harness the unique opportunities offered by both the formal and informal microfinance institutions in improving health care capacity by considering them as viable financing options within a comprehensive national health financing policy framework.
PMCID: PMC3317843  PMID: 22424445
Public health insurance; National Hospital Insurance Fund; Microfinance institutions; Urban slums; Kenya
22.  Barriers of access to care in a managed competition model: lessons from Colombia 
The health sector reform in Colombia, initiated by Law 100 (1993) that introduced a managed competition model, is generally presented as a successful experience of improving access to care through a health insurance regulated market. The study's objective is to improve our understanding of the factors influencing access to the continuum of care in the Colombian managed competition model, from the social actors' point of view.
An exploratory, descriptive-interpretative qualitative study was carried out, based on case studies of four healthcare networks in rural and urban areas. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted to a three stage theoretical sample: I) cases, II) providers and III) informants: insured and uninsured users (35), health professionals (51), administrative personnel (20), and providers' (18) and insurers' (10) managers. Narrative content analysis was conducted; segmented by cases, informant's groups and themes.
Access, particularly to secondary care, is perceived as complex due to four groups of obstacles with synergetic effects: segmented insurance design with insufficient services covered; insurers' managed care and purchasing mechanisms; providers' networks structural and organizational limitations; and, poor living conditions. Insurers' and providers' values based on economic profit permeate all factors. Variations became apparent between the two geographical areas and insurance schemes. In the urban areas barriers related to market functioning predominate, whereas in the rural areas structural deficiencies in health services are linked to insufficient public funding. While financial obstacles are dominant in the subsidized regime, in the contributory scheme supply shortage prevails, related to insufficient private investment.
The results show how in the Colombian healthcare system structural and organizational barriers to care access, that are common in developing countries, are widened by both the insurers' use of mechanisms that limit the utilization and the public healthcare providers' change of behavior in a competition environment. They provide evidence to question the promotion of the managed competition model in low and middle-income countries.
PMCID: PMC2984497  PMID: 21034481
23.  Oral Health Care Reform in Finland – aiming to reduce inequity in care provision 
BMC Oral Health  2008;8:3.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC2268684  PMID: 18226197
24.  Achieving universal health care coverage: Current debates in Ghana on covering those outside the formal sector 
Globally, extending financial protection and equitable access to health services to those outside the formal sector employment is a major challenge for achieving universal coverage. While some favour contributory schemes, others have embraced tax-funded health service cover for those outside the formal sector. This paper critically examines the issue of how to cover those outside the formal sector through the lens of stakeholder views on the proposed one-time premium payment (OTPP) policy in Ghana.
Ghana in 2004 implemented a National Health Insurance Scheme, based on a contributory model where service benefits are restricted to those who contribute (with some groups exempted from contributing), as the policy direction for moving towards universal coverage. In 2008, the OTPP system was proposed as an alternative way of ensuring coverage for those outside formal sector employment. There are divergent stakeholder views with regard to the meaning of the one-time premium and how it will be financed and sustained. Our stakeholder interviews indicate that the underlying issue being debated is whether the current contributory NHIS model for those outside the formal employment sector should be maintained or whether services for this group should be tax funded. However, the advantages and disadvantages of these alternatives are not being explored in an explicit or systematic way and are obscured by the considerable confusion about the likely design of the OTPP policy. We attempt to contribute to the broader debate about how best to fund coverage for those outside the formal sector by unpacking some of these issues and pointing to the empirical evidence needed to shed even further light on appropriate funding mechanisms for universal health systems.
The Ghanaian debate on OTPP is related to one of the most important challenges facing low- and middle-income countries seeking to achieve a universal health care system. It is critical that there is more extensive debate on the advantages and disadvantages of alternative funding mechanisms, supported by a solid evidence base, and with the policy objective of universal coverage providing the guiding light.
PMCID: PMC3532243  PMID: 23102454
Universal health care coverage; National health insurance; Policy objective; Policy options; Those outside formal sector employment; Tax funding; One-time premium payment; Ghana
25.  The creation of the health consumer: challenges on health sector regulation after managed care era 
We utilized our previous studies analyzing the reforms affecting the health sector developed in the 1990s by financial groups to frame the strategies implemented by the pharmaceutical industry to regain market positions and to understand the challenges that regulatory agencies are confronting.
We followed an analytical approach for analyzing the process generated by the disputes between the financial groups and the pharmaceutical corporations and the challenges created to governmental regulation. We analyzed primary and secondary sources using situational and discourse analyses. We introduced the concepts of biomedicalization and biopedagogy, which allowed us to analyze how medicalization was radicalized.
In the 1990s, structural adjustment policies facilitated health reforms that allowed the entrance of multinational financial capital into publicly-financed and employer-based insurance. This model operated in contraposition to the interests of the medical industrial complex, which since the middle of the 1990s had developed silent reforms to regain authority in defining the health-ill-care model. These silent reforms radicalized the medicalization. Some reforms took place through deregulatory processes, such as allowing direct-to-consumer advertisements of prescription drugs in the United States. In other countries different strategies were facilitated by the lack of regulation of other media such as the internet. The pharmaceutical industry also has had a role in changing disease definitions, rebranding others, creating new ones, and pressuring for approval of treatments to be paid by public, employer, and private plans. In recent years in Brazil there has been a substantial increase in the number of judicial claims demanding that public administrations pay for new treatments.
We found that the dispute for the hegemony of the health sector between financial and pharmaceutical companies has deeply transformed the sector. Patients converted into consumers are exposed to the biomedicalization of their lives helped by the biopedagogies, which using subtle mechanisms present discourses as if they are objective and created to empower consumers. The analysis of judicialization of health policies in Brazil could help to understand the complexity of the problem and to develop democratic mechanisms to improve the regulation of the health sector.
PMCID: PMC3055814  PMID: 21349181

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