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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.  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.
Background
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?
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-S1-S5
PMCID: PMC3381693  PMID: 22992410
3.  Effect of private insurance incentive policy reforms on trends in coronary revascularisation procedures in the private and public health sectors in Western Australia: a cohort study 
Background
The Australian federal government introduced private health insurance incentive policy reforms in 2000 that increased the uptake of private health insurance in Australia. There is currently a lack of evidence on the effect of the policy reforms on access to cardiovascular interventions in public and private hospitals in Australia. The aim was to investigate whether the increased private health insurance uptake influenced trends in emergency and elective coronary artery revascularisation procedures (CARPs) for private and public patients.
Methods
We included 34,423 incident CARPs from Western Australia during 1995-2008 in this study. Rates of emergency and elective CARPs were stratified for publicly and privately funded patients. The average annual percent change (AAPC) in trend was calculated before and after 2000 using joinpoint regression.
Results
The rate of emergency CARPs, which were predominantly percutaneous coronary interventions (PCIs) with stenting, increased throughout the study period for both public and private patients (AAPC=12.9%, 95% CI=5.0,22.0 and 14.1%, 95% CI=9.8,18.6, respectively) with no significant difference in trends before and after policy implementation. The rate of elective PCIs with stenting from 2000 onwards remained relatively stable for public patients (AAPC=−6.0, 95% C= −16.9,6.4), but increased by 4.1% on average annually (95% CI=1.8,6.3) for private patients (pdifference=0.04 between groups). This rate increase for private patients was only seen in people aged over 65 years and people residing in high socioeconomic areas.
Conclusions
The private health insurance incentive policy reforms are a likely contributing factor in the shift in 2000 from public to privately-funded elective PCIs with stenting. These reforms as well as the increasing number of private hospitals may have been successful in increasing the availability of publicly-funded beds since 2000.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-280
PMCID: PMC3729369  PMID: 23870450
Health insurance; Coronary artery disease; Revascularisation procedures; Health policy
4.  Access to Care After Massachusetts’ Health Care Reform: A Safety Net Hospital Patient Survey 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2012;27(11):1548-1554.
ABSTRACT
BACKGROUND
Massachusetts’ health care reform substantially decreased the percentage of uninsured residents. However, less is known about how reform affected access to care, especially according to insurance type.
OBJECTIVE
To assess access to care in Massachusetts after implementation of health care reform, based on insurance status and type.
DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS
We surveyed a convenience sample of 431 patients presenting to the Emergency Department of Massachusetts’ second largest safety net hospital between July 25, 2009 and March 20, 2010.
MAIN MEASURES
Demographic and clinical characteristics, insurance coverage, measures of access to care and cost-related barriers to care.
KEY RESULTS
Patients with Commonwealth Care and Medicaid, the two forms of insurance most often newly-acquired under the reform, reported similar or higher utilization of and access to outpatient visits and rates of having a usual source of care, compared with the privately insured. Compared with the privately insured, a significantly higher proportion of patients with Medicaid or Commonwealth Care Type 1 (minimal cost sharing) reported delaying or not getting dental care (42.2 % vs. 27.1 %) or medication (30.0 % vs. 7.0 %) due to cost; those with Medicaid also experienced cost-related barriers to seeing a specialist (14.6 % vs. 3.5 %) or getting recommended tests (15.6 % vs. 5.9 %). Those with Commonwealth Care Types 2 and 3 (greater cost sharing) reported significantly more cost-related barriers to obtaining care than the privately insured (45.0 % vs. 16.0 %), to seeing a primary care doctor (25.0 % vs. 6.0 %) or dental provider (58.3 % vs. 27.1 %), and to obtaining medication (20.8 % vs. 7.0 %). No differences in cost-related barriers to preventive care were found between the privately and publicly insured.
CONCLUSIONS
Access to care improved less than access to insurance following Massachusetts’ health care reform. Many newly insured residents obtained Medicaid or state subsidized private insurance; cost-related barriers to access were worse for these patients than for the privately insured.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11606-012-2173-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s11606-012-2173-7
PMCID: PMC3475814  PMID: 22825807
access to care; health insurance; health disparities; health care reform; health care policy
5.  Quality of Private and Public Ambulatory Health Care in Low and Middle Income Countries: Systematic Review of Comparative Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(4):e1000433.
Paul Garner and colleagues conducted a systematic review of 80 studies to compare the quality of private versus public ambulatory health care in low- and middle-income countries.
Background
In developing countries, the private sector provides a substantial proportion of primary health care to low income groups for communicable and non-communicable diseases. These providers are therefore central to improving health outcomes. We need to know how their services compare to those of the public sector to inform policy options.
Methods and Findings
We summarised reliable research comparing the quality of formal private versus public ambulatory health care in low and middle income countries. We selected studies against inclusion criteria following a comprehensive search, yielding 80 studies. We compared quality under standard categories, converted values to a linear 100% scale, calculated differences between providers within studies, and summarised median values of the differences across studies. As the results for for-profit and not-for-profit providers were similar, we combined them. Overall, median values indicated that many services, irrespective of whether public or private, scored low on infrastructure, clinical competence, and practice. Overall, the private sector performed better in relation to drug supply, responsiveness, and effort. No difference between provider groups was detected for patient satisfaction or competence. Synthesis of qualitative components indicates the private sector is more client centred.
Conclusions
Although data are limited, quality in both provider groups seems poor, with the private sector performing better in drug availability and aspects of delivery of care, including responsiveness and effort, and possibly being more client orientated. Strategies seeking to influence quality in both groups are needed to improve care delivery and outcomes for the poor, including managing the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The provision of private (“for-profit” hospitals and self-employed practitioners, and “not-for-profit” non-government providers, including faith-based organizations) versus public health care services in low and middle income countries raises considerable ideological debate. Ideological arguments aside—which can be very passionate on both sides—there is general agreement that improving the quality of both public and private health care could have a major impact on improved health outcomes, especially as the private sector is so widely used in low and middle income countries. For example, almost three quarters and half of children from the poorest households of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, respectively, seek health care from a private provider when they are ill. Private providers are also increasingly responsible for outpatient care for non-communicable diseases.
As a result of the mixed health care system in many low and middle income countries, adequate oversight and stewardship of the mixed system from the national government is essential yet often missing.
Why Was This Study Done?
An understanding of how quality and performance in the private sector compares with that in the public sector would help governments to prioritize where they need to concentrate their efforts. So, for example, if the private sector is generally providing poorer quality care than the public sector, then there is an imperative to improve the quality and outcomes; on the other hand, if the quality of care offered by the private sector is good, the policy priority is to influence the market to further improve access to such health care for low income groups.
In order to help with this comparison, the researchers wanted to systematically identify and summarize the results of studies that directly compared the quality of care offered by public providers with the one offered by “formal” private providers (recognized by law) and “informal” private providers (providers that are not legally recognized, such as lay health workers and shop keepers). For the purposes of this study the researchers focused their comparison on the private and public provision of outpatient care in low and middle income countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In their literature review, the researchers searched for relevant studies reported in English, French, or German and published between January 1970 and April 2009. Only studies that compared private and public outpatient medical services in the same country, at the same time, using the same methods, and which met particular quality criteria, were included in the analysis. The researchers also had strict criteria for including qualitative studies, and they retrieved the full text of articles, contacted study authors where appropriate, and verified with a second researcher most (80%) of the extracted study data. In order to evaluate and compare the studies, the researchers converted study values to a linear 100% scale, calculated differences between providers within studies, and summarized the median values of the differences across studies.
The researchers identified a total of 8,812 relevant titles and abstracts and found 80 studies that included direct quantitative comparisons of public and private formal providers. Ten studies included qualitative data. Most studies were conducted after 1990, and mainly in sub-Saharan Africa (n = 39) and Asia and the Pacific (n = 23). Most studies did not report socio-economic status of public and private service users, and only five studies presented data by different income groups. No study compared the same individual providers working in public and private care settings. Only two studies compared public providers and private informal providers, so the authors excluded these from subsequent analysis.
For the formal sector, since the results for “for-profit” and “not-for-profit” providers were similar, the researchers decided to combine the results. Overall, the researchers found that the median values indicated that many services, irrespective of whether public or private, scored low (less than 50%) on infrastructure, clinical competence, and practice. Generally, the private sector performed better in relation to drug supply, responsiveness, and effort, but there was no detectable difference between provider groups for patient satisfaction. Furthermore, a synthesis of qualitative data suggested that the private sector may be more client-centered.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Based on the findings of this review, there is a clear need to consider the quality of primary health services in both the public and private sector in order to improve health outcomes in low and middle income countries. These findings also indicate that, for some aspects of care, on average the private sector provided better quality services. The overall low quality of care in both the formal private and public sector found in this review is worrying, and calls for the governments of low and middle income countries to find and implement effective strategies to improve the quality in both sectors. This is particularly important given the increasing volume of conditions that require relatively sophisticated, long-term ambulatory medical care, such as non-communicable diseases.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000433.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Jishnu Das
WHO has more information on health service delivery in low- and middle-income countries
WHO has more information on noncommunicable diseases
The World Bank's World Development Report for 2004 addresses health care for poor people
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000433
PMCID: PMC3075233  PMID: 21532746
6.  MCBS Highlights: Ownership and Average Premiums for Medicare Supplementary Insurance Policies 
Health Care Financing Review  1995;17(1):255-275.
This article describes private supplementary health insurance holdings and average premiums paid by Medicare enrollees. Data were collected as part of the 1992 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS). Data show the number of persons with insurance and average premiums paid by type of insurance held—individually purchased policies, employer-sponsored policies, or both. Distributions are shown for a variety of demographic, socioeconomic, and health status variables. Primary findings include: Seventy-eight percent of Medicare beneficiaries have private supplementary insurance; 25 percent of those with private insurance hold more than one policy. The average premium paid for private insurance in 1992 was $914.
PMCID: PMC4193567  PMID: 10153473
7.  Quantifying the Impoverishing Effects of Purchasing Medicines: A Cross-Country Comparison of the Affordability of Medicines in the Developing World 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(8):e1000333.
Laurens Niëns and colleagues estimate the impoverishing effects of four medicines in 16 low- and middle-income countries using the impoverishment method as a metric of affordability and show that medicine purchases could impoverish large numbers of people.
Background
Increasing attention is being paid to the affordability of medicines in low- and middle-income countries (LICs and MICs) where medicines are often highly priced in relation to income levels. The impoverishing effect of medicine purchases can be estimated by determining pre- and postpayment incomes, which are then compared to a poverty line. Here we estimate the impoverishing effects of four medicines in 16 LICs and MICs using the impoverishment method as a metric of affordability.
Methods and Findings
Affordability was assessed in terms of the proportion of the population being pushed below US$1.25 or US$2 per day poverty levels because of the purchase of medicines. The prices of salbutamol 100 mcg/dose inhaler, glibenclamide 5 mg cap/tab, atenolol 50 mg cap/tab, and amoxicillin 250 mg cap/tab were obtained from facility-based surveys undertaken using a standard measurement methodology. The World Bank's World Development Indicators provided household expenditure data and information on income distributions. In the countries studied, purchasing these medicines would impoverish large portions of the population (up to 86%). Originator brand products were less affordable than the lowest-priced generic equivalents. In the Philippines, for example, originator brand atenolol would push an additional 22% of the population below US$1.25 per day, whereas for the lowest priced generic equivalent this demographic shift is 7%. Given related prevalence figures, substantial numbers of people are affected by the unaffordability of medicines.
Conclusions
Comparing medicine prices to available income in LICs and MICs shows that medicine purchases by individuals in those countries could lead to the impoverishment of large numbers of people. Action is needed to improve medicine affordability, such as promoting the use of quality assured, low-priced generics, and establishing health insurance systems.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In recent years, the international community has prioritized access to essential medicines, which has required focusing on the accessibility, availability, quality, and affordability of life-saving medicines and the development of appropriate data and research agendas to measure these components. Determining the degree of affordability of medicines, especially in low- and middle-income countries, is a complex process as the term affordability is vague. However, the cost of medicines is a major public health issue, especially as the majority of people in developing countries do not have health insurance and medicines freely provided through the public sector are often unavailable. Therefore, although countries have a legal obligation to make essential medicines available to those who need them at an affordable cost, poor people often have to pay for the medicines that they need when they are ill. Consequently, where medicine prices are high, people may have to forego treatment or they may go into debt if they decide to buy the necessary medicines.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted to show the impact of the cost of medicines on poorer populations by undertaking an analysis that quantified the proportion of people who would be pushed into poverty (an income level of US$1.25 or US$2 a day) because their only option is to pay out-of-pocket expenses for the life-saving medicines they need. The researchers referred to this consequence as the “impoverishing effect of a medicine.”
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers generated “impoverishment rates” of four medicines in 16 low- and middle-income countries by comparing households' daily per capita income before and after (the hypothetical) purchase of one of the following: a salbutamol 100 mcg/dose inhaler, glibenclamide 5 mg cap/tab, atenolol 50 mg cap/tab, and amoxicillin 250 mg cap/tab. This selection of drugs covers the treatment/management of three chronic diseases and one acute illness. The cost of each medicine was taken from standardized surveys, which report median patient prices for a selection of commonly used medicines in the private sector (the availability of essential medicines in the public sector is much lower so many people will depend on the private sector for their medicines) for both originator brand and lowest priced generic products. If the prepayment income was above the US$1.25 (or US$2) poverty line and the postpayment income fell below these lines, purchasing these medicines at current prices impoverishes people.
According to the results of this analysis, a substantial proportion (up to 86%) of the population in the countries studied would be pushed into poverty as a result of purchasing one of the four selected medicines. Furthermore, the lowest priced generic versions of each medicine were generally substantially more affordable than originator brand products. For example, in the Philippines, purchasing originator brand atenolol would push an additional 22% of the population below US$1.25 per day compared to 7% if the lowest priced generic equivalent was bought instead. In effect, purchasing essential medicines for both chronic and acute conditions could impoverish large numbers of people, especially if originator brand products are bought.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although the purchasing of medicines represents only part of the costs associated with the management of an illness, it is clear that the high cost of medicines have catastrophic effects on poor people. In addition, as the treatment of chronic conditions often requires a combination of medicines, the cost of treating and managing a chronic condition such as asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease is likely to be even more unaffordable than what is reported in this study. Therefore concerted action is urgently required to improve medicine affordability and prevent poor populations from being pushed further into poverty. Such action could include: governments, civil society organizations, and others making access to essential medicines more of a priority and to consider this strategy as an integral part of reducing poverty; the development, implementation, and enforcement of sound national and international price policies; actively promoting the use of quality assured, low-cost generic drugs; ensuring the availability of essential medicines in the public sector at little or no charge to poor people; establishing health insurance systems with outpatient medicine benefits; encouraging pharmaceutical companies to differentially price medicines that are still subject to patent restrictions.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000333.
For a comprehensive resource for medicine prices, availability, and affordability, see Health Action International
Guidelines about access to essential medicines and pharmaceutical policies can be found at WHO
Transparency Alliance provides more information about medicines
Access to essential medicines has become a key campaign topic; for more information see Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000333
PMCID: PMC2930876  PMID: 20824175
8.  The Impact of Private Insurance Coverage on Veterans' Use of VA Care: Insurance and Selection Effects 
Health Services Research  2008;43(1 Pt 1):267-286.
Objective
To examine private insurance coverage and its impact on use of Veterans Health Administration (VA) care among VA enrollees without Medicare coverage.
Data Sources
The 1999 National Health Survey of Veteran Enrollees merged with VA administrative data, with other information drawn from American Hospital Association data and the Area Resource File.
Study Design
We modeled VA enrollees' decision of having private insurance coverage and its impact on use of VA care controlling for sociodemographic information, patients' health status, VA priority status and access to VA and non-VA alternatives. We estimated the true impact of insurance on the use of VA care by teasing out potential selection bias. Bias came from two sources: a security selection effect (sicker enrollees purchase private insurance for extra security and use more VA and non-VA care) and a preference selection effect (VA enrollees who prefer non-VA care may purchase private insurance and use less VA care).
Principal Findings
VA enrollees with private insurance coverage were less likely to use VA care. Security selection dominated preference selection and naïve models that did not control for selection effects consistently underestimated the insurance effect.
Conclusions
Our results indicate that prior research, which has not controlled for insurance selection effects, may have underestimated the potential impact of any private insurance policy change, which may in turn affect VA enrollees' private insurance coverage and consequently their use of VA care. From the decline in private insurance coverage from 1999 to 2002, we projected an increase of 29,400 patients and 158 million dollars for VA health care services.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2007.00743.x
PMCID: PMC2323148  PMID: 18211529
VA health care system; insurance effect; selection effect; access/demand/utilization of services; instrumental variables
9.  How Well Does Medicaid Work in Improving Access to Care? 
Health Services Research  2005;40(1):39-58.
Objective
To provide an assessment of how well the Medicaid program is working at improving access to and use of health care for low-income mothers.
Data Source/Study Setting
The 1997 and 1999 National Survey of America's Families, with state and county information drawn from the Area Resource File and other sources.
Study Design
Estimate the effects of Medicaid on access and use relative to private coverage and being uninsured, using instrumental variables methods to control for selection into insurance status.
Data Collection/Extraction Method
This study combines data from 1997 and 1999 for mothers in families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
Principal Findings
We find that Medicaid beneficiaries' access and use are significantly better than those obtained by the uninsured. Analysis that controls for insurance selection shows that the benefits of having Medicaid coverage versus being uninsured are substantially larger than what is estimated when selection is not accounted for. Our results also indicate that Medicaid beneficiaries' access and use are comparable to that of the low-income privately insured. Once insurance selection is controlled for, access and use under Medicaid is not significantly different from access and use under private insurance. Without controls for insurance selection, access and use for Medicaid beneficiaries is found to be significantly worse than for the low-income privately insured.
Conclusions
Our results show that the Medicaid program improved access to care relative to uninsurance for low-income mothers, achieving access and use levels comparable to those of the privately insured. Our results also indicate that prior research, which generally has not controlled for selection into insurance coverage, has likely understated the gains of Medicaid relative to uninsurance and overstated the gains of private coverage relative to Medicaid.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2005.00341.x
PMCID: PMC1361125  PMID: 15663701
Medicaid; access to care; instrumental variables
10.  Does type of health insurance affect health care use and assessments of care among the privately insured? 
Health Services Research  2000;35(1 Pt 2):219-237.
OBJECTIVE: To inform the debate about managed care by examining how different types of private insurance-indemnity insurance, PPOs, open model HMOs, and closed model HMOs-affect the use of health services and consumer assessments of care. DATA SOURCES/DATA COLLECTION: The 1996-1997 Community Tracking Study Household Survey, a nationally representative telephone survey of households, and the Community Tracking Study Insurance Followback Survey, a supplement to the Household Survey, which asks insurance organizations to match household respondents to specific insurance products. The analysis sample includes 27,257 nonelderly individuals covered by private insurance. STUDY DESIGN: Based on insurer reports, individuals are grouped into one of the four insurance product types. Measures of service use include ambulatory visits, preventive care use, hospital use, surgeries, specialist use, and whether there is a usual source of care. Consumer assessments of care include unmet or delayed care needs, satisfaction with health care, ratings of the last physician visit, and trust in physicians. Estimates are adjusted to control for differences in individual characteristics and location. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: As one moves from indemnity insurance to PPOs to open model HMOs to closed model HMOs, use of primary care increases modestly but use of specialists is reduced. Few differences are observed in other areas of service use, such as preventive care, hospital use, and surgeries. The likelihood of having unmet or delayed care does not vary by insurance type, but the reasons that underlie such access problems do vary: enrollees in more managed products are less likely to cite financial barriers to care but are more likely to perceive problems in provider access, convenience, and organizational factors. Consumer assessments of care-including satisfaction with care, ratings of the last physician visit, and trust in physicians-are generally lower under more managed products, particularly closed model HMOs. CONCLUSIONS: The type of insurance that people have-not just whether it is managed care but the type of managed care-affects their use of services and their assessments of the care they receive. Consumers and policymakers should be reminded that managed care encompasses a variety of types of insurance products that have different effects and may require different policy responses.
Images
PMCID: PMC1089097  PMID: 10778811
11.  Anonymous HIV workplace surveys as an advocacy tool for affordable private health insurance in Namibia 
Background
With an estimated adult HIV prevalence of 15%, Namibia is in need of innovative health financing strategies that can alleviate the burden on the public sector. Affordable and private health insurances were recently developed in Namibia, and they include coverage for HIV/AIDS. This article reports on the efficacy of HIV workplace surveys as a tool to increase uptake of these insurances by employees in the Namibian formal business sector. In addition, the burden of HIV among this population was examined by sector.
Methods
Cross-sectional anonymous HIV prevalence surveys were conducted in 24 private companies in Namibia between November 2006 and December 2007. Non-invasive oral fluid-based HIV antibody rapid tests were used. Anonymous test results were provided to the companies in a confidential report and through presentations to their management, during which the advantages of affordable private health insurance and the available insurance products were discussed. Impact assessment was conducted in October 2008, when new health insurance uptake by these companies was evaluated.
Results
Of 8500 targeted employees, 6521 were screened for HIV; mean participation rate was 78.6%. Overall 15.0% (95% CI 14.2-15.9%) of employees tested HIV positive (range 3.0-23.9% across companies). The mining sector had the highest percentage of HIV-positive employees (21.0%); the information technology (IT) sector had the lowest percentage (4.0%). Out of 6205 previously uninsured employees, 61% had enrolled in private health insurance by October 2008. The majority of these new insurances (78%) covered HIV/AIDS only.
Conclusion
The proportion of HIV-positive formal sector employees in Namibia is in line with national prevalence estimates and varies widely by employment sector. Following the surveys, there was a considerable increase in private health insurance uptake. This suggests that anonymous HIV workplace surveys can serve as a tool to motivate private companies to provide health insurance to their workforce. Health insurance taken up by those who are able to pay the fees will alleviate the burden on the public sector.
doi:10.1186/1758-2652-12-32
PMCID: PMC2788345
12.  The Adequacy of Household Survey Data for Evaluating the Nongroup Health Insurance Market 
Health Services Research  2007;42(4):1739-1757.
Objective
To evaluate the accuracy of household survey estimates of the size and composition of the nonelderly population covered by nongroup health insurance.
Data Sources/Study Setting
Health insurance enrollment statistics reported to New Jersey insurance regulators. Household data from the following sources: the 2002 Current Population Survey (CPS)-March Demographic Supplement, the 1997 and 1999 National Surveys of America's Families (NSAF), the 2001 New Jersey Family Health Survey (NJFHS), a 2002 survey of known nongroup health insurance enrollees, a small 2004 survey testing alternative health insurance question wording.
Study Design
To assess the extent of bias in estimates of the size of the nongroup health insurance market in New Jersey, enrollment trends are compared between official enrollment statistics reported by insurance carriers to state insurance regulators with estimates from three general population household surveys. Next, to evaluate possible bias in the demographic and socioeconomic composition of the New Jersey nongroup market, distributions of characteristics of the enrolled population are contrasted among general household surveys and a survey of known nongroup subscribers. Finally, based on inferences drawn from these comparisons, alternative health insurance question wording was developed and tested in a local survey to test the potential for misreporting enrollment in nongroup coverage in a low-income population.
Data Collection/Extraction Methods
Data for nonelderly New Jersey residents from the 2002 CPS (n = 5,028) and the 1997 and 1999 NSAF (n = 6,467 and 7,272, respectively) were obtained from public sources. The 2001 NJFHS (n = 5,580 nonelderly) was conducted for a sample drawn by random digit dialing and employed computer-assisted telephone interviews and trained, professional interviewers. Sampling weights are used to adjust for under-coverage of households without telephones and other factors. In addition, a modified version of the NJFHS was administered to a 2002 sample of known nongroup subscribers (n = 1,398) using the same field methods. These lists were provided by four of the five largest New Jersey nongroup insurance carriers, which represented 95 percent of all nongroup enrollees in the state. Finally, a modified version of the NJFHS questionnaire was fielded using similar methods as part of a local health survey in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 2004 (n = 1,460 nonelderly).
Principal Findings
General household sample surveys, including the widely used CPS, yield substantially higher estimates of nongroup enrollment compared with administrative totals and yield estimates of the characteristics of the nongroup population that vary greatly from a survey of known nongroup subscribers. A small survey testing a question about source of payment for direct-purchased coverage suggests than many public coverage enrollees report nongroup coverage.
Conclusions
Nongroup health insurance has been subject to more than a decade of reform and is of continuing policy interest. Comparisons of unique data from a survey of known nongroup subscribers and administrative sources to household surveys strongly suggest that the latter overstates the number and misrepresent the composition of the nongroup population. Research on the nongroup market using available sources should be interpreted cautiously and survey methods should be reexamined.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2006.00662.x
PMCID: PMC1955284  PMID: 17610446
Health insurance; nongroup insurance; health care surveys
13.  Choice of hospital for delivery: a comparison of high-risk and low-risk women. 
Health Services Research  1993;28(2):201-222.
OBJECTIVE. This article tests whether or not the factors that affect hospital choice differ for selected subgroups of the population. DATA SOURCES. 1985 California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) discharge abstracts and hospital financial data were used. STUDY DESIGN. Models for hospital choice were estimated using McFadden's conditional logit model. Separate models were estimated for high-risk and low-risk patients, and for high-risk and low-risk women covered either by private insurance or by California Medicaid. The model included independent variables to control for quality, price, ownership, and distance to the hospital. DATA EXTRACTION. Data covered all maternal deliveries in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1985 (N = 61,436). ICD-9 codes were used to classify patients as high-risk or low-risk. The expected payment code on the discharge abstract was used to identify insurance status. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS. The results strongly reject the hypothesis that high-risk and low-risk women have the same choice process. Hospital quality tended to be more important for high-risk than low-risk women. These results also reject the hypothesis that factors influencing choice of hospital are the same for women covered by private insurance as for those covered by Medicaid. Further, high-risk women covered by Medicaid were less likely than high-risk women covered by private insurance to deliver in hospitals with newborn intensive care units. CONCLUSIONS. The results show that the choice factors vary across several broadly defined subgroups of patients with a specific condition. Thus, estimates aggregating all patients may be misleading. Specifically, such estimates will understate actual patient response to quality of care indicators, since patient sensitivity to quality of care varies with the patients' risk status.
PMCID: PMC1069930  PMID: 8514500
14.  The provision of chiropractic, physiotherapy and osteopathic services within the Australian private health-care system: a report of recent trends 
Background
Chiropractors, physiotherapists, and osteopaths receive training in the diagnosis and management of musculoskeletal conditions. As a result there is considerable overlap in the types of conditions that are encountered clinically by these practitioners. In Australia, the majority of benefits paid for these services come from the private sector. The purpose of this article is to quantify and describe the development in service utilization and the cost of benefits paid to users of these healthcare services by private health insurers. An exploration of the factors that may have influenced the observed trends is also presented.
Methods
A review of data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, and the Australian Government Private Health Insurance Administration Council was conducted. An analysis of chiropractic, physiotherapy and osteopathic service utilisation and cost of service utilisation trend was performed along with the level of benefits and services over time.
Results
In 2012, the number of physiotherapists working in the private sector was 2.9 times larger than that of chiropractic, and 7.8 times that of the osteopathic profession. The total number of services provided by chiropractors, physiotherapists, and osteopaths increased steadily over the past 15 years. For the majority of this period, chiropractors provided more services than the other two professions. The average number of services provided by chiropractors was approximately two and a half times that of physiotherapists and four and a half times that of osteopaths.
Conclusions
This study highlights a clear disparity in the average number of services provided by chiropractors, physiotherapists, and osteopaths in the private sector in Australia over the last 15 years. Further research is required to explain these observed differences and to determine whether a similar trend exists in patients who do not have private health insurance cover.
doi:10.1186/2045-709X-22-3
PMCID: PMC3896731  PMID: 24428934
Chiropractic; Physiotherapy; Osteopathy; Allied health; Healthcare utilisation
15.  Insurance status and access to health services among poor persons. 
Health Services Research  1993;28(5):531-541.
OBJECTIVE: We examine the relationship between health insurance status and access to care among low-income persons 65 years of age and under, taking into account their social demographic characteristics and health care needs. DATA SOURCES AND STUDY SETTING. Study groups consist of the subsamples of persons with incomes between 100 and 150 percent of the federal poverty level and those below the federal poverty level interviewed in the 1983, 1984, and 1986 Health Interview Surveys (HIS) of the National Center for Health Statistics. Sample sizes range from about 6,000 to 11,000 depending on the proportion of each study group administered the insurance supplement. STUDY DESIGN. Annual visits and whether hospitalized during a year are used as measures of access to medical care. The analysis consists of identifying predictors of use of services (i.e., health status and social characteristics) and, taking them into account, examining the relationship of insurance status to access to care. This was first undertaken on the 1983 survey; the models obtained then are replicated on the other two years of data. DATA COLLECTION/EXTRACTION METHODS. The HIS utilizes in-person interviews to gather health and medical history information from a stratified random sample of the U.S. population. Data were obtained through public use tapes distributed by the National Center for Health Statistics. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS. Results are consistent for all three years among persons in poverty. Being covered by Medicaid, in contrast to having private insurance or being without health insurance, is related to use of both ambulatory care and hospital care. The access differences for persons in poverty, regardless of their vulnerability or "risk" of requiring medical care, are marked and generally statistically significant. Among the near-poor the same findings occur, although the differences are less sharp and less often statistically significant. CONCLUSIONS. The most obvious explanation is that the poor, and to a considerable extent the near-poor, have limited access because of copayments and deductibles that are typically part of private insurance coverage. The findings raise policy questions regarding the utility of either "play or pay" employer-provided insurance or income tax deductions to increase access.
PMCID: PMC1069962  PMID: 8270419
16.  Association of Adenotonsillectomy with Asthma Outcomes in Children: A Longitudinal Database Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(11):e1001753.
Rakesh Bhattacharjee and colleagues use data from a US private health insurance database to compare asthma severity measures in children one year before and one year after they underwent adenotonsillectomy with asthma measures in those who did not undergo adenotonsillectomy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Childhood asthma and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), both disorders of airway inflammation, were associated in recent observational studies. Although childhood OSA is effectively treated by adenotonsillectomy (AT), it remains unclear whether AT also improves childhood asthma. We hypothesized that AT, the first line of therapy for childhood OSA, would be associated with improved asthma outcomes and would reduce the usage of asthma therapies in children.
Methods and Findings
Using the 2003–2010 MarketScan database, we identified 13,506 children with asthma in the United States who underwent AT. Asthma outcomes during 1 y preceding AT were compared to those during 1 y following AT. In addition, 27,012 age-, sex-, and geographically matched children with asthma without AT were included to examine asthma outcomes among children without known adenotonsillar tissue morbidity. Primary outcomes included the occurrence of a diagnostic code for acute asthma exacerbation (AAE) or acute status asthmaticus (ASA). Secondary outcomes included temporal changes in asthma medication prescriptions, the frequency of asthma-related emergency room visits (ARERs), and asthma-related hospitalizations (ARHs). Comparing the year following AT to the year prior, AT was associated with significant reductions in AAE (30.2%; 95% CI: 25.6%–34.3%; p<0.0001), ASA (37.9%; 95% CI: 29.2%–45.6%; p<0.0001), ARERs (25.6%; 95% CI: 16.9%–33.3%; p<0.0001), and ARHs (35.8%; 95% CI: 19.6%–48.7%; p = 0.02). Moreover, AT was associated with significant reductions in most asthma prescription refills, including bronchodilators (16.7%; 95% CI: 16.1%–17.3%; p<0.001), inhaled corticosteroids (21.5%; 95% CI: 20.7%–22.3%; p<0.001), leukotriene receptor antagonists (13.4%; 95% CI: 12.9%–14.0%; p<0.001), and systemic corticosteroids (23.7%; 95% CI: 20.9%–26.5%; p<0.001). In contrast, there were no significant reductions in these outcomes in children with asthma who did not undergo AT over an overlapping follow-up period. Limitations of the MarketScan database include lack of information on race and obesity status. Also, the MarketScan database does not include information on children with public health insurance (i.e., Medicaid) or uninsured children.
Conclusions
In a very large sample of privately insured children, AT was associated with significant improvements in several asthma outcomes. Contingent on validation through prospectively designed clinical trials, this study supports the premise that detection and treatment of adenotonsillar tissue morbidity may serve as an important strategy for improving asthma control.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The global burden of asthma has been rising steadily over the past few decades. Nowadays, about 200–300 million adults and children worldwide are affected by asthma, a chronic condition caused by inflammation of the airways (the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs). Although asthma can develop at any age, it is often diagnosed in childhood—asthma is one of the commonest chronic diseases in children. In the US, for example, asthma affects around 7.1 million children under the age of 18 years and is the third leading cause of hospitalization of children under the age of 15 years. In people with asthma, the airways can react very strongly to allergens such as animal fur or to irritants such as cigarette smoke. Exercise, cold air, and infections can trigger asthma attacks, which can be fatal. The symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma cannot be cured, but drugs can relieve its symptoms and prevent acute asthma attacks.
Why Was This Study Done?
Recent studies have found an association between severe childhood asthma and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In OSA, airway inflammation promotes hypertrophy (excess growth) of the adenoids and the tonsils, immune system tissues in the upper airway. During sleep, the presence of hypertrophic adenotonsillar tissues predisposes the walls of the throat to collapse, which results in apnea—a brief interruption in breathing. People with OSA often snore loudly and frequently wake from deep sleep as they struggle to breathe. Childhood OSA, which affects 2%–3% of children, can be effectively treated by removal of the adenoids and tonsils (adenotonsillectomy). Given the association between childhood OSA and severe asthma and given the involvement of airway inflammation in both conditions, might adenotonsillectomy also improve childhood asthma? Here, the researchers analyze data from the MarketScan database, a large database of US patients with private health insurance, to investigate whether adenotonsillectomy is associated with improvements in asthma outcomes and with reductions in the use of asthma therapies in children.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used the database to identify 13,506 children with asthma who had undergone adenotonsillectomy and to obtain information about asthma outcomes among these children for the year before and the year after the operation. Because asthma severity tends to decrease with age, the researchers also used the database to identify 27,012 age-, sex-, and geographically matched children with asthma who did not have the operation so that they could examine asthma outcomes over an equivalent two-year period in the absence of complications related to adenotonsillar hypertrophy. Comparing the year after adenotonsillectomy with the year before the operation, adenotonsillectomy was associated with a 30% reduction in acute asthma exacerbations, a 37.9% reduction in acute status asthmaticus (an asthma attack that is unresponsive to the drugs usually used to treat attacks), a 25.6% reduction in asthma-related emergency room visits, and a 35.8% reduction in asthma-related hospitalizations. By contrast, among the control children, there was only a 2% reduction in acute asthma exacerbations and only a 7% reduction in acute status asthmaticus over an equivalent two-year period. Adenotonsillectomy was also associated with significant reductions (changes unlikely to have occurred by chance) in prescription refills for most types of drugs used to treat asthma, whereas there were no significant reductions in prescription refills among children with asthma who had not undergone adenotonsillectomy. The study was limited by the lack of measures of race and obesity, which are both associated with severity of asthma.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that in a large sample of privately insured children in the US, adenotonsillectomy was associated with significant improvements in several asthma outcomes. These results do not show, however, that adenotonsillectomy caused a reduction in the severity of childhood asthma. It could be that the children who underwent adenotonsillectomy (but not those who did not have the operation) shared another unknown factor that led to improvements in their asthma over time. To prove a causal link, it will be necessary to undertake a randomized controlled trial in which the outcomes of groups of children with asthma who are chosen at random to undergo or not undergo adenotonsillectomy are compared. However, with the proviso that there are some risks associated with adenotonsillectomy, these findings suggest that the detection and treatment of adenotonsillar hypertrophy may help to improve asthma control in children.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001753.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on asthma, including videos, games, and links to other resources for children with asthma
The American Lung Association provides detailed information about asthma and a fact sheet on asthma in children; it also has information about obstructive sleep apnea
The National Sleep Foundation provides information on snoring and obstructive sleep apnea in children
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information (including some personal stories) about asthma, about asthma in children, and about obstructive sleep apnea
The “Global Asthma Report 2014” will be available in October 2014
MedlinePlus provides links to further information on asthma, on asthma in children, on sleep apnea, and on tonsils and adenoids (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001753
PMCID: PMC4219664  PMID: 25369282
17.  Strategies for coping with the costs of inpatient care: a mixed methods study of urban and rural poor in Vadodara District, Gujarat, India 
Health Policy and Planning  2011;27(4):326-338.
Background In India, coping mechanisms for inpatient care costs have been explored in rural areas, but seldom among urbanites. This study aims to explore and compare mechanisms employed by the urban and rural poor for coping with inpatient expenditures, in order to help identify formal mechanisms and policies to provide improved social protection for health care.
Methods A three-step methodology was used: (1) six focus-group discussions; (2) 800 exit survey interviews with users of public and private facilities in both urban and rural areas; and (3) 18 in-depth interviews with poor (below 30th percentile of socio-economic status) hospital users, to explore coping mechanisms in greater depth.
Results Users of public hospitals, in both urban and rural areas, were poor relative to users of private hospitals. Median expenditures per day were much higher at private than at public facilities. Most respondents using public facilities (in both urban and rural areas) were able to pay out of their savings or income; or by borrowing from friends, family or employer. Those using private facilities were more likely to report selling land or other assets as the primary source of coping (particularly in rural areas) and they were more likely to have to borrow money at interest (particularly in urban areas). Poor individuals who used private facilities cited as reasons their closer proximity and higher perceived quality of care.
Conclusions In India, national and state governments should invest in improving the quality and access of public first-referral hospitals. This should be done selectively—with a focus, for example, on rural areas and urban slum areas—in order to promote a more equitable distribution of resources. Policy makers should continue to explore and support efforts to provide financial protection through insurance mechanisms. Past experience suggests that these efforts must be carefully monitored to ensure that the poorer among the insured are able to access scheme benefits, and the quality and quantity of health care provided must be monitored and regulated.
doi:10.1093/heapol/czr044
PMCID: PMC3375767  PMID: 21653545
Hospitalization; expenditures; coping strategies; insurance; social capital; India
18.  The Influence of Health Systems on Hypertension Awareness, Treatment, and Control: A Systematic Literature Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(7):e1001490.
Will Maimaris and colleagues systematically review the evidence that national or regional health systems, including place of care and medication co-pays, influence hypertension awareness, treatment, and control.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Hypertension (HT) affects an estimated one billion people worldwide, nearly three-quarters of whom live in low- or middle-income countries (LMICs). In both developed and developing countries, only a minority of individuals with HT are adequately treated. The reasons are many but, as with other chronic diseases, they include weaknesses in health systems. We conducted a systematic review of the influence of national or regional health systems on HT awareness, treatment, and control.
Methods and Findings
Eligible studies were those that analyzed the impact of health systems arrangements at the regional or national level on HT awareness, treatment, control, or antihypertensive medication adherence. The following databases were searched on 13th May 2013: Medline, Embase, Global Health, LILACS, Africa-Wide Information, IMSEAR, IMEMR, and WPRIM. There were no date or language restrictions. Two authors independently assessed papers for inclusion, extracted data, and assessed risk of bias. A narrative synthesis of the findings was conducted. Meta-analysis was not conducted due to substantial methodological heterogeneity in included studies. 53 studies were included, 11 of which were carried out in LMICs. Most studies evaluated health system financing and only four evaluated the effect of either human, physical, social, or intellectual resources on HT outcomes. Reduced medication co-payments were associated with improved HT control and treatment adherence, mainly evaluated in US settings. On balance, health insurance coverage was associated with improved outcomes of HT care in US settings. Having a routine place of care or physician was associated with improved HT care.
Conclusions
This review supports the minimization of medication co-payments in health insurance plans, and although studies were largely conducted in the US, the principle is likely to apply more generally. Studies that identify and analyze complexities and links between health systems arrangements and their effects on HT management are required, particularly in LMICs.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In 2008, one billion people, three-quarters of whom were living in low- and middle-income countries, had high blood pressure (hypertension). Worldwide, hypertension, which rarely has any symptoms, leads to about 7.5 million deaths annually from heart attacks, stroke, other cardiovascular diseases, and kidney disease. Hypertension, selected by the World Health Organization as the theme for World Health Day 2013, is diagnosed by measuring blood pressure, the force that blood circulating in the body exerts on the inside of large blood vessels. Blood pressure is highest when the heart is contracts to pump blood out (systolic blood pressure) and lowest when the heart relaxes and refills (diastolic blood pressure). Normal adult blood pressure is defined as a systolic blood pressure of less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and a diastolic blood pressure of less than 80 mmHg (a blood pressure of less than 120/80 mmHg). A blood pressure reading of more than 140/90 mmHg indicates hypertension. Many factors affect blood pressure, but overweight people and individuals who eat fatty or salty foods are at high risk of developing hypertension.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most individuals can achieve good hypertension control, which reduces death and disability from cardiovascular and kidney disease, by making lifestyle changes (mild hypertension) and/or by taking antihypertensive drugs. Yet, in both developed and developing countries, many people with hypertension are not aware of their condition and are not adequately treated. As with other chronic diseases, weaknesses in health care systems probably contribute to the inadequate treatment of hypertension. A health care system comprises all the organizations, institutions, and resources whose primary purpose is to improve health. Weaknesses in health care systems can exist at the national, regional, district, community, and household level. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers investigate how national and regional health care system arrangements influence hypertension awareness, treatment, and control. Actions that might influence hypertension care at this level of health care systems include providing treatment for hypertension at no or reduced cost, the introduction of financial incentives to healthcare practitioners for the diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, and enhanced insurance coverage in countries such as the US where people pay for health care through insurance policies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 53 studies that analyzed whether regional or national health care systems arrangements were associated with patient awareness of hypertension, treatment of hypertension, adherence to antihypertensive medication treatment, and control of hypertension. The researchers used an established conceptual framework for health care systems and an approach called narrative synthesis to analyze the results of these studies, most of which were conducted in the US (36 studies) and other high-income countries (eight studies). Nearly all the studies evaluated the effects of health system financing on hypertension outcomes, although several looked at the effects of delivery and governance of health systems on these outcomes. The researchers' analysis revealed an association between reduced medication co-payments (drug costs that are not covered by health insurance and that are paid by patients in countries without universal free healthcare) and improved hypertension control and treatment adherence, mainly in US settings. In addition, in US settings, health insurance coverage was associated with improved hypertension outcomes, as was having a routine physician or place of care.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that minimizing co-payments for health care and expansion of health insurance coverage in countries without universal free health care may improve the awareness, treatment, and control of hypertension. Although these findings are based mainly on US studies, they are likely to apply more generally but, importantly, these findings indicate that additional, high-quality studies are needed to unravel the impact of health systems arrangements on the management of hypertension. In particular, they reveal few studies in low- and middle-income countries where most of the global burden of hypertension lies and where weaknesses in health systems often result in deficiencies in the care of chronic diseases. Moreover, they highlight a need for studies that evaluate how aspects of health care systems other than financing (for example, delivery and governance mechanisms) and interactions between health care system arrangements affect hypertension outcomes. Without the results of such studies, governments and national and international organizations will not know the best ways to deal effectively with the global public-health crisis posed by hypertension.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001490.
The US National Heart Lung and Blood Institute has patient information about high blood pressure (in English and Spanish)
The American Heart Association provides information on high blood pressure (in several languages) and personal stories about dealing with high blood pressure
The UK National Health Service (NHS) Choices website provides detailed information for patients about hypertension and a personal story about hypertension
The World Health Organization provides information on controlling blood pressure and on health systems (in several languages); its "A Global Brief on Hypertension" was published on World Health Day 2013
MedlinePlus provides links to further information about high blood pressure (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001490
PMCID: PMC3728036  PMID: 23935461
19.  Minimally invasive surgical procedures for the treatment of lumbar disc herniation 
Introduction
In up to 30% of patients undergoing lumbar disc surgery for herniated or protruded discs outcomes are judged unfavourable. Over the last decades this problem has stimulated the development of a number of minimally-invasive operative procedures. The aim is to relieve pressure from compromised nerve roots by mechanically removing, dissolving or evaporating disc material while leaving bony structures and surrounding tissues as intact as possible. In Germany, there is hardly any utilisation data for these new procedures – data files from the statutory health insurances demonstrate that about 5% of all lumbar disc surgeries are performed using minimally-invasive techniques. Their real proportion is thought to be much higher because many procedures are offered by private hospitals and surgeries and are paid by private health insurers or patients themselves. So far no comprehensive assessment comparing efficacy, safety, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery to standard procedures (microdiscectomy, open discectomy) which could serve as a basis for coverage decisions, has been published in Germany.
Objective
Against this background the aim of the following assessment is:
Based on published scientific literature assess safety, efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery compared to standard procedures. To identify and critically appraise studies comparing costs and cost-effectiveness of minimally-invasive procedures to that of standard procedures. If necessary identify research and evaluation needs and point out regulative needs within the German health care system. The assessment focusses on procedures that are used in elective lumbar disc surgery as alternative treatment options to microdiscectomy or open discectomy. Chemonucleolysis, percutaneous manual discectomy, automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy, laserdiscectomy and endoscopic procedures accessing the disc by a posterolateral or posterior approach are included.
Methods
In order to assess safety, efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive procedures as well as their economic implications systematic reviews of the literature are performed. A comprehensive search strategy is composed to search 23 electronic databases, among them MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library. Methodological quality of systematic reviews, HTA reports and primary research is assessed using checklists of the German Scientific Working Group for Health Technology Assessment. Quality and transparency of cost analyses are documented using the quality and transparency catalogues of the working group. Study results are summarised in a qualitative manner. Due to the limited number and the low methodological quality of the studies it is not possible to conduct metaanalyses. In addition to the results of controlled trials results of recent case series are introduced and discussed.
Results
The evidence-base to assess safety, efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery procedures is rather limited:
Percutaneous manual discectomy: Six case series (four after 1998)Automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy: Two RCT (one discontinued), twelve case series (one after 1998)Chemonucleolysis: Five RCT, five non-randomised controlled trials, eleven case seriesPercutaneous laserdiscectomy: One non-randomised controlled trial, 13 case series (eight after 1998)Endoscopic procedures: Three RCT, 21 case series (17 after 1998)
There are two economic analyses each retrieved for chemonucleolysis and automated percutaneous discectomy as well as one cost-minimisation analysis comparing costs of an endoscopic procedure to costs for open discectomy.
Among all minimally-invasive procedures chemonucleolysis is the only of which efficacy may be judged on the basis of results from high quality randomised controlled trials (RCT). Study results suggest that the procedure maybe (cost)effectively used as an intermediate therapeutical option between conservative and operative management of small lumbar disc herniations or protrusions causing sciatica. Two RCT comparing transforaminal endoscopic procedures with microdiscectomy in patients with sciatica and small non-sequestered disc herniations show comparable short and medium term overall success rates. Concerning speed of recovery and return to work a trend towards more favourable results for the endoscopic procedures is noted. It is doubtful though, whether these results from the eleven and five years old studies are still valid for the more advanced procedures used today. The only RCT comparing the results of automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy to those of microdiscectomy showed clearly superior results of microdiscectomy. Furthermore, success rates of automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy reported in the RCT (29%) differ extremely from success rates reported in case series (between 56% and 92%).
The literature search retrieves no controlled trials to assess efficacy and/or effectiveness of laser-discectomy, percutaneous manual discectomy or endoscopic procedures using a posterior approach in comparison to the standard procedures. Results from recent case series permit no assessment of efficacy, especially not in comparison to standard procedures. Due to highly selected patients, modi-fications of operative procedures, highly specialised surgical units and poorly standardised outcome assessment results of case series are highly variable, their generalisability is low.
The results of the five economical analyses are, due to conceptual and methodological problems, of no value for decision-making in the context of the German health care system.
Discussion
Aside from low methodological study quality three conceptual problems complicate the interpretation of results.
Continuous further development of technologies leads to a diversity of procedures in use which prohibits generalisation of study results. However, diversity is noted not only for minimally-invasive procedures but also for the standard techniques against which the new developments are to be compared. The second problem refers to the heterogeneity of study populations. For most studies one common inclusion criterion was "persisting sciatica after a course of conservative treatment of variable duration". Differences among study populations are noted concerning results of imaging studies. Even within every group of minimally-invasive procedure, studies define their own in- and exclusion criteria which differ concerning degree of dislocation and sequestration of disc material. There is the non-standardised assessment of outcomes which are performed postoperatively after variable periods of time. Most studies report results in a dichotomous way as success or failure while the classification of a result is performed using a variety of different assessment instruments or procedures. Very often the global subjective judgement of results by patients or surgeons is reported. There are no scientific discussions whether these judgements are generalisable or comparable, especially among studies that are conducted under differing socio-cultural conditions. Taking into account the weak evidence-base for efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive procedures it is not surprising that so far there are no dependable economic analyses.
Conclusions
Conclusions that can be drawn from the results of the present assessment refer in detail to the specified minimally-invasive procedures of lumbar disc surgery but they may also be considered exemplary for other fields where optimisation of results is attempted by technological development and widening of indications (e.g. total hip replacement).
Compared to standard technologies (open discectomy, microdiscectomy) and with the exception of chemonucleolysis, the developmental status of all other minimally-invasive procedures assessed must be termed experimental. To date there is no dependable evidence-base to recommend their use in routine clinical practice. To create such a dependable evidence-base further research in two directions is needed: a) The studies need to include adequate patient populations, use realistic controls (e.g. standard operative procedures or continued conservative care) and use standardised measurements of meaningful outcomes after adequate periods of time. b) Studies that are able to report effectiveness of the procedures under everyday practice conditions and furthermore have the potential to detect rare adverse effects are needed. In Sweden this type of data is yielded by national quality registries. On the one hand their data are used for quality improvement measures and on the other hand they allow comprehensive scientific evaluations. Since the year of 2000 a continuous rise in utilisation of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery is observed among statutory health insurers. Examples from other areas of innovative surgical technologies (e.g. robot assisted total hip replacement) indicate that the rise will probably continue - especially because there are no legal barriers to hinder introduction of innovative treatments into routine hospital care. Upon request by payers or providers the "Gemeinsamer Bundesausschuss" may assess a treatments benefit, its necessity and cost-effectiveness as a prerequisite for coverage by the statutory health insurance. In the case of minimally-invasive disc surgery it would be advisable to examine the legal framework for covering procedures only if they are provided under evaluation conditions. While in Germany coverage under evaluation conditions is established practice in ambulatory health care only (“Modellvorhaben") examples from other European countries (Great Britain, Switzerland) demonstrate that it is also feasible for hospital based interventions. In order to assure patient protection and at the same time not hinder the further development of new and promising technologies provision under evaluation conditions could also be realised in the private health care market - although in this sector coverage is not by law linked to benefit, necessity and cost-effectiveness of an intervention.
PMCID: PMC3011322  PMID: 21289928
20.  Who Can't Pay for Health Care? 
BACKGROUND
In an era of rising health care costs, many Americans experience difficulty paying for needed health care services. With costs expected to continue rising, changes to private insurance plans and public programs aimed at containing costs may have a negative impact on Americans' ability to afford care.
OBJECTIVES
To provide estimates of the number of adults who avoid health care due to cost, and to assess the association of income, functional status, and type of insurance with the extent to which people with health insurance report financial barriers.
RESEARCH DESIGN
Cross-sectional observational study using data from the Commonwealth Fund 2001 Health Care Quality Survey, a nationally representative telephone survey.
PARTICIPANTS
U.S. adults age 18 and older (N=6,722).
MEASURES
Six measures of avoiding health care due to cost, including delaying or not seeking care; not filling prescription medicines; and not following recommended treatment plan.
RESULTS
The proportion of Americans with difficulty affording health care varies by income and health insurance coverage. Overall, 16.9% of Americans report at least 1 financial barrier. Among those with private insurance, the poor (28.4%), near poor (24.3%), and those with functional impairments (22.9%) were more likely to report avoiding care due to cost. In multivariate models, the uninsured are more likely (OR, 2.3; 95% CI, 1.7 to 3.0) to have trouble paying for care. Independent of insurance coverage and other demographic characteristics, the poor (OR, 3.6; 95% CI, 2.1 to 4.6), near poor (OR, 2.1; 95% CI, 1.9 to 3.7), and middle-income (OR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.3 to 2.5) respondents as well as those with functional impairments (OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.3 to 2.0) are significantly more likely to avoid care due to cost.
CONCLUSIONS
Privately and publicly insured individuals who have low incomes or functional impairments encounter significant financial barriers to care despite having health insurance. Proposals to expand health insurance will need to address these barriers in order to be effective.
doi:10.1111/j.1525-1497.2005.0087.x
PMCID: PMC1490134  PMID: 15987324
health care affordability; insurance coverage; low-income populations; functional impairment
21.  Trends in Hospital-Based Childbirth Care: The Role of Health Insurance 
The American journal of managed care  2013;19(4):e125-e132.
Objective
Childbirth is the leading reason for hospitalization in the United States, and maternity-related expenditures are substantial for many health insurance programs, including Medicaid. We studied the relationship between primary payer and trends in hospital-based childbirth care.
Study design
Retrospective analysis of hospital discharge data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, a 20% stratified sample of US hospitals.
Methods
Data on 6,717,486 hospital-based births for the years 2002 through 2009 came from the NIS. We used generalized estimating equations to measure associations over time between primary payer (Medicaid, private insurance, or self) and cesarean delivery, vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), labor induction, and episiotomy.
Results
Controlling for clinical, demographic, and hospital factors, births covered by Medicaid had lower odds of cesarean delivery (AOR, 0.91), labor induction (AOR, 0.73), and episiotomy (AOR, 0.62) and higher odds of VBAC (AOR, 1.20; P < .001 for all AORs) compared with privately insured births. Cesarean rates increased 6% annually among births paid by private insurance (AOR, 1.06; P < .001) and less rapidly (5% annually) among those covered by Medicaid.
Conclusions
US hospital-based births covered by private insurance were associated with higher rates of obstetric intervention than births paid for by Medicaid. After controlling for clinical, demographic, and hospital factors, cesarean delivery rates increased more rapidly among births covered by private insurance, compared with Medicaid. Changes in insurance coverage associated with healthcare reform may impact costs and quality of care for women giving birth in US hospitals.
PMCID: PMC3671492  PMID: 23725450
22.  Impact of health insurance status on vaccination coverage in children 19-35 months old, United States, 1993-1996. 
Public Health Reports  2004;119(2):156-162.
OBJECTIVES: To show how health insurance (privately and publicly insured, insured and uninsured) relates to vaccination coverage in children 19-35 months old, and how this can be used to better target public health interventions. METHODS: The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) gathers information on the health and health care of the U.S. non-institutionalized population through household interviews. The authors combined immunization and health insurance supplements from the 1993 through 1996 NHIS, and classified children 19-35 months old by their immunization and insurance status. Results were compared using both bivariate and multivariate analyses, and the backwards stepwise selection method was used to build multivariate logistic regression models. RESULTS: Uninsured children tended to have lower vaccination coverage than those who had insurance, either private or public. Among those with insurance, publicly insured children had lower vaccination coverage than privately insured children. Backwards stepwise regression retained insurance status, metropolitan statistical area, and education of responsible adult family member as major predictors of immunization. Factors considered but not retained in the final model included child race/ethnicity, family poverty index, and region of country. CONCLUSIONS: Insurance status was a critical predictor of vaccination coverage for children ages 19-35 months. After controlling for confounders, the uninsured were about 24% less likely to receive all recommended shots than the insured and, among the insured, those with public insurance were about 24% less likely to receive all recommended vaccines than those with private insurance.
PMCID: PMC1497610  PMID: 15192902
23.  Development of a health care policy characterisation model based on use of private health insurance 
Objective
The aim of this study was to develop a policy characterisation process based on measuring shifts in use of private health insurance (PHI) immediately following implementation of changes in federal health care policy.
Method
Population-based hospital morbidity data from 1980 to 2001 were used to produce trend lines in the annual proportions of public, privately insured and privately uninsured hospital separations in age-stratified subgroups. A policy characterisation model was developed using visual and statistical assessment of the trend lines associated with changes in federal health care policy.
Results
Of eight changes in federal health care policy, two (introduction of Medicare and Lifetime Health Cover) were directly associated with major changes in the trend lines; however, minor changes in trends were associated with several of the other federal policies. Three types of policy effects were characterised by our model: direction change, magnitude change and inhibition. Results from our model suggest that a policy of Lifetime Health Cover, with a sanction for late adoption of PHI, was immediately successful in changing the private: public mix. The desired effect of the 30% rebate was immediate only in the oldest age group (70+ years), however, introduction of the lifetime health cover and limitations in the model restricted the ability to determine whether or if the rebate had a delayed effect at younger ages.
Conclusion
An outcome-based policy characterisation model is useful in evaluating immediate effects of changes in health care policy.
doi:10.1186/1743-8462-2-27
PMCID: PMC1312311  PMID: 16274489
24.  The role and uptake of private health insurance in different health care systems: are there lessons for developing countries? 
Background
Social and national health insurance schemes are being introduced in many developing countries in moving towards universal health care. However, gaps in coverage are common and can only be met by out-of-pocket payments, general taxation, or private health insurance (PHI). This study provides an overview of PHI in different health care systems and discusses factors that affect its uptake and equity.
Methods
A representative sample of countries was identified (United States, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, France, Australia, and Latvia) that illustrates the principal forms and roles of PHI. Literature describing each country’s health care system was used to summarize how PHI is utilized and the factors that affect its uptake and equity.
Results
In the United States, PHI is a primary source of funding in conjunction with tax-based programs to support vulnerable groups; in the UK and Latvia, PHI is used in a supplementary role to universal tax-based systems; in France and Latvia, complementary PHI is utilized to cover gaps in public funding; in The Netherlands, PHI is supplementary to statutory private and social health insurance; in Australia, the government incentivizes the uptake of complementary PHI through tax rebates and penalties. The uptake of PHI is influenced by age, income, education, health care system typology, and the incentives or disincentives applied by governments. The effect on equity can either be positive or negative depending on the type of PHI adopted and its role within the wider health care system.
Conclusion
PHI has many manifestations depending on the type of health care system used and its role within that system. This study has illustrated its common applications and the factors that affect its uptake and equity in different health care systems. The results are anticipated to be helpful in informing how developing countries may utilize PHI to meet the aim of achieving universal health care.
doi:10.2147/CEOR.S40386
PMCID: PMC3593711  PMID: 23494071
social health insurance; developing countries; private health insurance; health care systems
25.  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.
Findings:
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.
Conclusions:
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.
doi:10.4103/2277-9531.145919
PMCID: PMC4275610  PMID: 25540789
Health insurance; health insurance structure; insurance; selected countries

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