In the transition from a planned economy to a market-oriented economy, China’s state funding for health care declined and traditional coverage plans collapsed, leaving China’s poor exposed to potentially ruinous health care costs. In reforming health care for the 21st century, equity in health care financing has become a major policy goal. To assess progress towards this goal, this paper examines the equity characteristics of health care financing in a province of northwestern China, comparing the equity performance between urban and rural areas at two different points in time.
Analysis of whether health care financing contributions were progressive according to income were made using the Kakwani index for each of the four health care financing channels of general taxes, public and private health insurance, and out-of-pocket payments. Two rounds of surveys were conducted, the first in 2003 (13,619 individuals in 3946 households) and the second in 2008 (12,973 individuals in 3958 households). Household socio-economic, health care payment, and utilization information were recorded in household interviews.
Low-income households have undertaken a larger share of the health care financing burden in recent years, reflected by negative Kakwani indices, which indicate a regressive system. We found that the indices for general taxation were −0.0024 (urban) and −0.0281 (rural) in 2002, and −0.0177 (urban) and −0.0097 (rural) in 2007. Public health insurance presented different financing distributions in urban and rural areas (urban: 0.0742 in 2002, 0.0661 in 2007; rural: –0.0615 in 2002,–0.1436 in 2007.). Out-of-pocket payments were progressive but not equitable. Public health insurance coverage has expanded but financing equity has decreased.
Health care financing policies in China need ongoing reform. Given the inequity of general consumption taxes, elimination of these would improve financing equity considerably. Optimizing benefit packages in public health insurance is as important as expanding coverage, both for health care financing and for utilization management as well. Although they are progressive, out-of-pocket payments are not equitable in China and have the effect of excluding the poor from health care as they cannot afford to pay for medical care and so withdraw from treatment.
Equity; Chinese health care reform; Financing; Kakwani index
Uganda is proposing introduction of the National Health Insurance scheme (NHIS) in a phased manner with the view to obtaining additional funding for the health sector and promoting financial risk protection. In this paper, we have assessed the proposed NHIS from an equity perspective, exploring the extent to which NHIS would improve existing disparities in the health sector.
We reviewed the proposed design and other relevant documents that enhanced our understanding of contextual issues. We used the Kutzin and fair financing frameworks to critically assess the impact of NHIS on overall equity in financing in Uganda.
The introduction of NHIS is being proposed against the backdrop of inequalities in the distribution of health system inputs between rural and urban areas, different levels of care and geographic areas. In this assessment, we find that gradual implementation of NHIS will result in low coverage initially, which might pose a challenge for effective management of the scheme. The process for accreditation of service providers during the first phase is not explicit on how it will ensure that a two-tier service provision arrangement does not emerge to cater for different types of patients. If the proposed fee-for-service mechanism of reimbursing providers is pursued, utilisation patterns will determine how resources are allocated. This implies that equity in resource allocation will be determined by the distribution of accredited providers, and checks put in place to prohibit frivolous use. The current design does not explicitly mention how these two issues will be tackled. Lastly, there is no clarity on how the NHIS will fit into, and integrate within existing financing mechanisms.
Under the current NHIS design, the initial low coverage in the first years will inhibit optimal achievement of the important equity characteristics of pooling, cross-subsidisation and financial protection. Depending on the distribution of accredited providers and utilisation patterns, the NHIS could worsen existing disparities in access to services, given the fee-for-service reimbursement mechanisms currently proposed. Lastly, if equity in financing and resource allocation are not explicit objectives of the NHIS, it might inadvertently worsen the existing disparities in service provision.
Human resources are the most important assets of any health system, and health workforce problems have for decades limited the efficiency and quality of Latin America health systems. World Bank-led reforms aimed at increasing equity, efficiency, quality of care and user satisfaction did not attempt to resolve the human resources problems that had been identified in multiple health sector assessments. However, the two most important reform policies – decentralization and privatization – have had a negative impact on the conditions of employment and prompted opposition from organized professionals and unions. In several countries of the region, the workforce became the most important obstacle to successful reform.
This article is based on fieldwork and a review of the literature. It discusses the reasons that led health workers to oppose reform; the institutional and legal constraints to implementing reform as originally designed; the mismatch between the types of personnel needed for reform and the availability of professionals; the deficiencies of the reform implementation process; and the regulatory weaknesses of the region.
The discussion presents workforce strategies that the reforms could have included to achieve the intended goals, and the need to take into account the values and political realities of the countries. The authors suggest that autochthonous solutions are more likely to succeed than solutions imported from the outside.
Rather than improving efficiency, the reforms imposed on the NHS have increased bureaucracy, reduced patient choice, limited the range of core services, and led to inequity of treatment. In this paper I examine how the medical profession might help to solve these problems. Priorities must be set for health care since no government can afford all the possibilities offered by medical science. It is essential to forge a consensus of patients, carers, professionals, the public, and government if a system of priorities is to be equitable and just. We also need to be able to measure quality of outcome in health care. This requires consensus on what is the desired outcome and the development of appropriate guidelines, audit, and performance review. This is primarily a task for the health professions supported by management and by adequate investment. Basically, the government must reinstate the three traditional values of the NHS--equity, consensus, and regard for representative professional advice.
The use of primary and managed care is likely to increase under proposed federal health care reform. I review the definition of primary care and primary care physicians and show that this delivery model can affect access to medical care, the cost of treatment, and the quality of services. Because the use of primary care is often greater in managed care than in fee-for-service, I compare the two insurance systems to further understand the delivery of primary care. Research suggests that primary care can help meet the goal of providing accessible, cost-effective, and high-quality care, but that changes in medical education and marketplace incentives will be needed to encourage students and trained physicians to enter this field.
To determine whether racial differences in hospital mortality worsened after implementation of a New Jersey law in 1993 that reduced subsidies for uninsured hospital care and changed hospital payment from rate regulation to price competition.
DATA SOURCES/STUDY SETTING
State discharge data for New Jersey and New York from 1990 to 1996.
We used an interrupted time series design to compare risk-adjusted in-hospital mortality rates between states over time. Adjusting for patient characteristics, baseline interstate differences, and common intertemporal trends, we compared the effect sizes for whites and blacks in the following 4 groups: overall, uninsured, insured under age 65, and Medicare patients.
DATA COLLECTION/EXTRACTION METHODS
The study sample included 1,357,394 patients admitted to New Jersey or New York hospitals between 1990 to 1996 with stroke, hip fracture, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, congestive heart failure, or acute myocardial infarction (AMI).
The increase in mortality in New Jersey versus New York was significantly larger among blacks than among whites for AMI (2.4% points vs 0.1% points, P-value for difference .026) but not for the other 6 conditions. In groupings of conditions for which hospital admission is non-discretionary and conditions in which admission is discretionary, we found qualitatively larger increases in mortality for blacks but no statistically significant racial differences among patients overall, uninsured patients, insured patients under age 65, or Medicare patients.
Market-based reform and reductions in subsidies for hospital care for the uninsured in New Jersey were associated with worsening racial disparities in in-hospital mortality for AMI but not for 6 other common conditions.
quality of health care; economics; medical; financing; organized
In Finland, dental services are provided by a public (PDS) and a private sector. In the past, children, young adults and special needs groups were entitled to care and treatment from the public dental services (PDS). A major reform in 2001 – 2002 opened the PDS and extended subsidies for private dental services to all adults. It aimed to increase equity by improving adults' access to oral health care and reducing cost barriers. The aim of this study was to assess the impacts of the reform on the utilization of publicly funded and private dental services, numbers and distribution of personnel and costs in 2000 and in 2004, before and after the oral health care reform. An evaluation was made of how the health political goals of the reform: integrating oral health care into general health care, improving adults' access to care and lowering cost barriers had been fulfilled during the study period.
National registers were used as data sources for the study. Use of dental services, personnel resources and costs in 2000 (before the reform) and in 2004 (after the reform) were compared.
In 2000, when access to publicly subsidised dental services was restricted to those born in 1956 or later, every third adult used the PDS or subsidised private services. By 2004, when subsidies had been extended to the whole adult population, this increased to almost every second adult. The PDS reported having seen 118 076 more adult patients in 2004 than in 2000. The private sector had the same number of patients but 542 656 of them had not previously been entitled to partial reimbursement of fees.
The use of both public and subsidised private services increased most in big cities and urban municipalities where access to the PDS had been poor and the number of private practitioners was high. The PDS employed more dentists (6.5%) and the number of private practitioners fell by 6.9%. The total dental care expenditure (PDS plus private) increased by 21% during the study period. Private patients who had previously not been entitled to reimbursements seemed to gain most from the reform.
The results of this study indicate that implementation of a substantial reform, that changes the traditionally defined tasks of the public and private sectors in an established oral health care provision system, proceeds slowly, is expensive and probably requires more stringent steering than was the case in Finland 2001 – 2004. However, the equity and fairness of the oral health care provision system improved and access to services and cost-sharing improved slightly.
In 1997 there was a major reform of the government run urban health insurance system in China. The principal aims of the reform were to widen coverage of health insurance for the urban employed and contain medical costs. Following this reform there has been a transition from the dual system of the Government Insurance Scheme (GIS) and Labour Insurance Scheme (LIS) to the new Urban Employee Basic Health Insurance Scheme (BHIS).
This paper uses data from the National Health Services Surveys of 1998 and 2003 to examine the impact of the reform on population coverage. Particular attention is paid to coverage in terms of gender, age, employment status, and income levels. Following a description of the data between the two years, the paper will discuss the relationship between the insurance reform and the growing inequities in population coverage.
An examination of the data reveals a number of key points:
a) The overall coverage of the newly established scheme has decreased from 1998 to 2003.
b) The proportion of the urban population without any type of health insurance arrangement remained almost the same between 1998 and 2003 in spite of the aim of the 1997 reform to increase the population coverage.
c) Higher levels of participation in mainstream insurance schemes (i.e. GIS-LIS and BHIS) were identified among older age groups, males and high income groups. In some cases, the inequities in the system are increasing.
d) There has been an increase in coverage of the urban population by non-mainstream health insurance schemes, including non-commercial and commercial ones.
The paper discusses three important issues in relation to urban insurance coverage: institutional diversity in the forms of insurance, labour force policy and the non-mainstream forms of commercial and non-commercial forms of insurance.
The paper concludes that the huge economic development and expansion has not resulted in a reduced disparity in health insurance coverage, and that limited cross-group subsidy and regional inequality is possible. Unless effective measures are taken, vulnerable groups such as women, low income groups, employees based on short-term contracts and rural-urban migrant workers may well be left out of sharing the social and economic development.
Signs of discontent with the health care system are growing. Calls for health care reform are largely motivated by the continued increase in health care costs and the large number of people without adequate health insurance. For the past 20 years, health care spending has risen at rates higher than the gross national product. As many as 35 million people are without health insurance. As proposals for health care reform are developed, it is useful to understand the roots of the cost problem. Causes of spiraling health care costs include "market failure" in the health care market, expansion in technology, excessive administrative costs, unnecessary care and defensive medicine, increased patient complexity, excess capacity within the health care system, and low productivity. Attempts to control costs, by the federal government for the Medicare program and then by the private sector, have to date been mostly unsuccessful. New proposals for health care reform are proliferating, and important changes in the health care system are likely.
The medical component of workers' compensation programs-now costing over $24 billion annually-and the rest of the nation's medical care system are linked. They share the same patients and providers. They provide similar benefits and services. And they struggle over who should pay for what. Clearly, health care reform and restructuring will have a major impact on the operation and expenditures of the workers' compensation system. For a brief period, during the 1994 national health care reform debate, these two systems were part of the same federal policy development and legislative process. With comprehensive health care reform no longer on the horizon, states now are tackling both workers' compensation and medical system reforms on their own. This paper reviews the major issues federal and state policy makers face as they consider reforms affecting the relationship between workers' compensation and traditional health insurance. What is the relationship of the workers' compensation cost crisis to that in general health care? What strategies are being considered by states involved in reforming the medical component of workers compensation? What are the major policy implications of these strategies?
Of global concern is the decline in under five children mortality which has reversed in some countries in sub Saharan Africa (SSA) since the early 1990 s which could be due to disparities in access to preventive services including immunization. This paper is aimed at determining the trend in disparities in completion of immunization using Tanzania Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS).
DHS studies randomly selected representative households from all regions in Tanzania since 1980 s, is repeated every five years in the same enumeration areas. The last three data sets (1990, 1996 and 2004) were downloaded and analyzed using STATA 9.0. The analysis included all children of between 12-23 months who would have completed all vaccinations required at 12 months.
Across the time periods 1990, 1996 to 2004/05 the percentage of children completing vaccination was similar (71.0% in 1990, 72.7% in 1996 and 72.3% in 2005). There was no disparity in completion of immunization with wealth strata in 1990 and 1996 (p > 0.05) but not 2004. In 2004/05 there was marked disparity as most poor experienced significant decline in immunization completion while the least poor had significant increase (p < 0.001). All three periods children from households whose head had low education were less likely to complete immunization (p < 0.01).
Equity that existed in 1990 and more pronounced in 1996 regressed to inequity in 2005, thus though at national level immunization coverage did not change, but at sub-group there was significant disparity associated with the changing contexts and reforms. To address sub-group disparities in immunization it is recommended to adopt strategies focused at governance and health system to reach all population groups and most poor.
Following the 2006 Massachusetts health care reform, an estimated 316,492 residents remain uninsured. However, there have been no published studies that examine why Massachusetts residents remain uninsured four years into health reform.
To describe the characteristics of uninsured patients seeking acute medical care in Massachusetts after implementation of health care reform and reasons for lacking insurance.
DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS
We performed an in-person survey of a convenience sample of patients visiting the emergency department of the state’s second largest safety net hospital between July 25, 2009 and March 20, 2010. We interviewed 431 patients age 18–64, 189 of whom were uninsured.
Demographic and clinical characteristics, employment and insurance history, reasons for lacking insurance and views of the state’s new “individual mandate”.
The uninsured were largely employed (65.9%), but only a quarter (25.1%) of the employed uninsured had access to employer-sponsored insurance. The majority qualified for subsidized insurance (85.7% earned ≤300% of the federal poverty level), yet many reported being unable to find affordable insurance (32.7%). Over a third (35.2%) were uninsured because they had lost insurance due predominantly to job loss or policy cancellation. For nearly half of the uninsured (48.6%), the individual mandate had motivated them to try to find insurance, but they were unable to find insurance they could afford.
After full implementation of the Massachusetts health reform, those remaining without insurance are largely the working poor who do not have access to, or cannot afford, either employer sponsored insurance or state subsidized insurance.
uninsured; health reform; health policy; safety-net institutions; health insurance
Within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 or health care reform, is a relatively small provision about concurrent curative care that significantly affects terminally ill children. Effective on March 23, 2010, terminally ill children, who are enrolled in a Medicaid or state Children’s Health Insurance Plans (CHIP) hospice benefit, may concurrently receive curative care related to their terminal health condition. The purpose of this article was to conduct a policy analysis of the concurrent curative care legislation by examining the intended goals of the policy to improve access to care and enhance quality of end of life care for terminally ill children. In addition, the policy analysis explored the political feasibility of implementing concurrent curative care at the state-level. Based on this policy analysis, the federal policy of concurrent curative care for children would generally achieve its intended goals. However, important policy omissions focus attention on the need for further federal end of life care legislation for children. These findings have implications nurses.
concurrent curative care; policy analysis; health care reform; end of life care; children
America's health care system is characterized by rising costs, increasing numbers of Americans who lack health insurance coverage, and poor quality of health care delivery. The convergence of these factors is adversely affecting not only the health of Americans but also the ability of businesses to compete successfully in a global marketplace. AARP and other nonprofit organizations are collaborating with the private sector to have more people covered by health insurance and to educate them to make behavioral choices that prevent chronic disease and ultimately lower costs.
Recent reform in the National Health Service has moved general practice towards a more intense market and competition structure. Meanwhile in the United States of America there has been an attempt to modify the free enterprise approach to medical care towards a more socially responsive system. This discussion paper provides a family doctor's perspective of primary care and the maelstrom of health care reform in the USA. The cultural, economic and organizational issues underlying the need for reform are considered in turn, and the current situation with regard to health care provision, medical research, medical education and primary care are outlined. General practitioners in the United Kingdom would do well to pay attention to the effects of market reform occurring in general practice among their American counterparts.
On 1 January 2006 a number of far-reaching changes in the Dutch health insurance system came into effect. In the new system of managed competition consumer mobility plays an important role. Consumers are free to change their insurer and insurance plan every year. The idea is that consumers who are not satisfied with the premium or quality of care provided will opt for a different insurer. This would force insurers to strive for good prices and quality of care. Internationally, the Dutch changes are under the attention of both policy makers and researchers. Questions answered in this article relate to switching behaviour, reasons for switching, and differences between population categories.
Postal questionnaires were sent to 1516 members of the Dutch Health Care Consumer Panel and to 3757 members of the National Panel of the Chronically ill and Disabled (NPCD) in April 2006. The questionnaire was returned by 1198 members of the Consumer Panel (response 79%) and by 3211 members of the NPCD (response 86%). Among other things, questions were asked about choices for a health insurer and insurance plan and the reasons for this choice.
Young and healthy people switch insurer more often than elderly or people in bad health. The chronically ill and disabled do not switch less often than the general population when both populations are comparable on age, sex and education.
For the general population, premium is more important than content, while the chronically ill and disabled value content of the insurance package as well. However, quality of care is not important for either group as a reason for switching.
There is increased mobility in the new system for both the general population and the chronically ill and disabled. This however is not based on quality of care. If reasons for switching are unrelated to the quality of care, it is hard to believe that switching influences the quality of care. As yet there are no signs of barriers to switch insurer for the chronically ill and disabled. This however could change in the future and it is therefore important to monitor changes.
Democrats and Republicans have turned to the concept of “high-risk pools” to provide health care for those Americans who face the dual challenge of uninsurance and serious health difficulties. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), these “high-risk” individuals will receive extensive help and regulatory protections, in concert with a new system of health insurance exchanges. However, these federal provisions do not become operational until 2014. As an interim measure, PPACA provides $5 billion for temporary, federally funded high-risk pools, now known as the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP). This analysis explores the adequacy of such funding. Using 2005/06 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), we find that approximately 4 million uninsured Americans have been diagnosed with emphysema, diabetes, stroke, cancer, congestive heart failure, angina, or a heart attack. To provide adequate health care for uninsured individuals with chronic diseases, the federal PCIP appropriations would need to be many times higher than either Democrats or Republicans have proposed.
high risk pools; insurance; health reform; patient protection and affordable care act
Pakistan is a struggling economy with poor maternal and child health indicators that have affected attainment of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 (under-five child and maternal mortality). Recent health reforms have abolished the federal Ministry of Health and devolved administrative and financial powers to the provinces. Ideally, devolution tends to simplify a healthcare system's management structure and ensure more efficient delivery of health services to underserved populations, in this case women and children. In this time of transition, it is appropriate to outline prerequisites for the efficient management of maternal and child health (MCH) services.
This paper examines the six building blocks of health systems in order to improve the utilization of MCH services in rural Pakistan. The targeted outcomes of recent reforms are devolved participatory decision-making regarding distribution of MCH-related services, improved deployment of the healthcare workforce, prioritization of pro-poor strategies for health financing and integration of various health information systems. Given this window of opportunity, the provinces need to guarantee fairness and equity through their stewardship of the healthcare system so as to protect vulnerable mothers and their children, especially in rural, remote and disadvantaged areas of Pakistan.
China’s healthcare system is experiencing significant growth from expanded government-backed insurance, greater public-sector spending on hospitals, and the introduction of private insurance and for-profit clinics. An incremental reform process has sought to develop market incentives for medical innovation and liberalize physician compensation and hospital finance while continuing to keep basic care affordable to a large population that pays for many components of care out-of-pocket. Additional changes presently under consideration by policymakers are likely to further restructure insurance and the delivery of care and will alter competitive dynamics in major healthcare industries, notably pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and diagnostic testing. This article describes the institutional history of China’s healthcare system and identifies dilemmas emerging as the country negotiates divisions between public and private in healthcare. Building on this analysis, the article considers opportunities for public-private partnerships and greater systems integration to reconcile otherwise incommensurable approaches to rewarding innovation and improving access. The article concludes with observations on the public function of health insurance and its significance to further development of China’s healthcare system.
China; Healthcare reform; Clinical trials; Electronic medical records; Insurance; Pharmaceuticals
To examine the impact of a Wisconsin health care reform enacted in early 2008 on public insurance enrollment and retention.
Administrative data covering the period January 2007 to November 2009.
We calculate unadjusted enrollment trends and exit rates stratified by age, income group, and enrollment mode. Kaplan–Meier curves and Cox proportional hazards models are estimated to assess the impact of the reform on program exits.
Overall enrollment increased by approximately one-third and exit rates decreased by approximately one-fifth. The majority of new enrollment came from the previously income eligible.
Wisconsin's enactment of eligibility expansions coupled with administrative simplification and targeted marketing and outreach efforts were successful in enrolling and retaining low-income children and families in public coverage.
Medicaid expansions; health care reform; health insurance
After the Liberation by Mao Ze Dong's Communist army in 1949, China experienced massive social and economic change. The dramatic reductions in mortality and morbidity of the next two decades were brought about through improvements in socioeconomic conditions, an emphasis on prevention, and almost universal access to basic health care. The economic mismanagement of the Great Leap Forward brought about a temporary reversal in these positive trends. During the Cultural Revolution there was a sustained attack on the privileged position of the medical profession. Most city doctors were sent to work in the countryside, where they trained over a million barefoot doctors. Deng Xiao Ping's radical economic reforms of the late 1970s replaced the socialist system with a market economy. Although average incomes have increased, the gap between rich and poor has widened.
Preparing long term reformatory plan for the health system, like other macro plans, requires guiding principles which is according to the values, and as a bridge, connect the ideals and values to the goals. This study was designed with the purpose of explaining the values and principles of health system, and as a pre-requisite to compilation of Iran’s health system reform plan at 2025.
The document of values and principles of health system reform plan for 2025 was developed by reviewing the literature and receiving the opinions of senior experts of health system, and was criticized in focus group discussion sessions of experts and decision makers.
The values of Iran are: dignity of human, the right to maximum attainable level of health, comprehensive health, equity and social cohesion. The principles of this health system include: institutionalizing the ethical values, responsiveness and accountability, equitable access (utilization), prevention and health promotion, community participation, inter-sectoral collaboration, integrated stewardship, benefit from innovation and desired technology, human resources promotion and excellence and harmony.
Based on the perception of cultural and religious teachings in Iran, protecting of human dignity and human prosperity are the ultimate social goal. In this sense, health and healthy humans, in its holistic concept (physical, mental, social health and spiritual) are the center and development in any form should lead to the human prosperity in a way that each of the individuals could enjoy the maximum attainable level of health in its holistic meaning and in a faire manner.
Health system; Value; Principle; Iran
Colombia is one of the countries with the widest levels of socioeconomic and health inequalities. Bogotá, its capital, faces serious problems of poverty, social disparities and access to health services. A Primary Health Care (PHC) strategy was implemented in 2004 to improve health care and to address the social determinants of such inequalities. This study aimed to evaluate the contribution of the PHC strategy to reducing inequalities in child health outcomes in Bogotá.
An ecological analysis with localities as the unit of analysis was carried out. The variable used to capture the socioeconomic status and living standards was the Quality of Life Index (QLI). Concentration curves and concentration indices for four child health outcomes (infant mortality rate (IMR), under-5 mortality rate, prevalence of acute malnutrition in children under-5, and vaccination coverage for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) were calculated to measure socioeconomic inequality. Two periods were used to describe possible changes in the magnitude of the inequalities related with the PHC implementation (2003 year before - 2007 year after implementation). The contribution of the PHC intervention was computed by a decomposition analysis carried out on data from 2007.
In both 2003 and 2007, concentration curves and indexes of IMR, under-5 mortality rate and acute malnutrition showed inequalities to the disadvantage of localities with lower QLI. Diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) vaccinations were more prevalent among localities with higher QLI in 2003 but were higher in localities with lower QLI in 2007. The variation of the concentration index between 2003 and 2007 indicated reductions in inequality for all of the indicators in the period after the PHC implementation. In 2007, PHC was associated with a reduction in the effect of the inequality that affected disadvantaged localities in under-5 mortality (24%), IMR (19%) and acute malnutrition (7%). PHC also contributed approximately 20% to inequality in DPT coverage, favoring the poorer localities.
The PHC strategy developed in Bogotá appears to be contributing to reductions of the inequality associated with socioeconomic and living conditions in child health outcomes.
Primary health care; Health status disparities; Inequality; Concentration index; Decomposition; Bogotá
This article considers some of the effects of health sector reform on human resources for health (HRH) in developing countries and countries in transition by examining the effect of fiscal reform and the introduction of decentralisation and market mechanisms to the health sector.
Fiscal reform results in pressure to measure the staff outputs of the health sector. Financial decentralisation often leads to hospitals becoming "corporatised" institutions, operating with business principles but remaining in the public sector. The introduction of market mechanisms often involves the formation of an internal market within the health sector and market testing of different functions with the private sector. This has immediate implications for the employment of health workers in the public sector, because the public sector may reduce its workforce if services are purchased from other sectors or may introduce more short-term and temporary employment contracts.
Decentralisation of budgets and administrative functions can affect the health sector, often in negative ways, by reducing resources available and confusing lines of accountability for health workers. Governance and regulation of health care, when delivered by both public and private providers, require new systems of regulation.
The increase in private sector provision has led health workers to move to the private sector. For those remaining in the public sector, there are often worsening working conditions, a lack of employment security and dismantling of collective bargaining agreements.
Human resource development is gradually being recognised as crucial to future reforms and the formulation of health policy. New information systems at local and regional level will be needed to collect data on human resources. New employment arrangements, strengthening organisational culture, training and continuing education will also be needed.
In 2001, the New Zealand government introduced its Primary Health Care Strategy (PHCS), aimed at strengthening the role of primary health care, in order to improve health and to reduce inequalities in health. As part of the Strategy, new funding was provided to reduce the fees that patients pay when they use primary health care services in New Zealand, to improve access to services and to increase service use. In this article, we estimate the impact of the new funding on general practitioner and practice nurse visit fees paid by patients and on consultation rates. The analyses involved before-and-after monitoring of fees and consultation rates in a random sample of 99 general practices and covered the period from June 2001 (pre-Strategy) to mid-2005.
Fees fell particularly in Access (higher need, higher per capita funded) practices over time for doctor and nurse visits. Fees increased over time for many in Interim (lower need, lower per capita funded) practices, but they fell for patients aged 65 years and over as new funding was provided for this age group. There were increases in consultation rates across almost all age, funding model (Access or Interim), socio-demographic and ethnic groups. Increases were particularly high in Access practices.
The Strategy has resulted in lower fees for primary health care for many New Zealanders, and consultation rates have also increased over the past few years. However, fees have not fallen by as much as expected in government policy given the amount of extra public money spent since there are limited requirements for practices to reduce patients' fees in line with increases in public funding for primary care.