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1.  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
2.  The geographic distribution of private health insurance in Australia in 2001 
Background
Private health insurance has been a major focus of Commonwealth Government health policy for the last decade. Over this period, the Howard government introduced a number of policy changes which impacted on the take up of private health insurance. The most expensive of these was the introduction of the private health insurance rebate in 1997, which had an estimated cost of $3 billion per annum.
Methods
This article uses information on the geographic distribution of the population with private health insurance cover to identify associations between rates of private health insurance cover and socioeconomic status. The geographic analysis is repeated with survey data on expenditure on private health insurance, to provide an estimate of the rebate flowing to different socioeconomic groups.
Results
The analysis highlights the strong association between high rates of private health insurance cover and high socioeconomic status and shows the substantial transfer of funds, under the private health insurance rebate, to those living in areas of highest socioeconomic status, compared with those in areas of lower socioeconomic status, and in particular those in the most disadvantaged areas. The article also provides estimates of private health insurance cover by federal electorate, emphasising the substantial gaps in cover between Liberal Party and Australian Labor Party seats.
Conclusion
The article concludes by discussing implications of the uneven distribution of private health insurance cover across Australia for policy formation. In particular, the study shows that the prevalence of private health insurance is unevenly distributed across Australia, with marked differences in prevalence in rural and urban areas, and substantial differences by socioeconomic status. Policy formation needs to take this into account. Evaluating the potential impact of changes in private health insurance requires more nuanced consideration than has been implied in the rhetoric about private health insurance over the last decade.
doi:10.1186/1743-8462-6-19
PMCID: PMC3224949  PMID: 19686590
3.  Clinical Benefits, Costs, and Cost-Effectiveness of Neonatal Intensive Care in Mexico 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(12):e1000379.
Joshua Salomon and colleagues performed a cost-effectiveness analysis using health and economic outcomes following preterm birth in Mexico and showed that neonatal intensive care provided high value for the money in this setting.
Background
Neonatal intensive care improves survival, but is associated with high costs and disability amongst survivors. Recent health reform in Mexico launched a new subsidized insurance program, necessitating informed choices on the different interventions that might be covered by the program, including neonatal intensive care. The purpose of this study was to estimate the clinical outcomes, costs, and cost-effectiveness of neonatal intensive care in Mexico.
Methods and Findings
A cost-effectiveness analysis was conducted using a decision analytic model of health and economic outcomes following preterm birth. Model parameters governing health outcomes were estimated from Mexican vital registration and hospital discharge databases, supplemented with meta-analyses and systematic reviews from the published literature. Costs were estimated on the basis of data provided by the Ministry of Health in Mexico and World Health Organization price lists, supplemented with published studies from other countries as needed. The model estimated changes in clinical outcomes, life expectancy, disability-free life expectancy, lifetime costs, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) for neonatal intensive care compared to no intensive care. Uncertainty around the results was characterized using one-way sensitivity analyses and a multivariate probabilistic sensitivity analysis. In the base-case analysis, neonatal intensive care for infants born at 24–26, 27–29, and 30–33 weeks gestational age prolonged life expectancy by 28, 43, and 34 years and averted 9, 15, and 12 DALYs, at incremental costs per infant of US$11,400, US$9,500, and US$3,000, respectively, compared to an alternative of no intensive care. The ICERs of neonatal intensive care at 24–26, 27–29, and 30–33 weeks were US$1,200, US$650, and US$240, per DALY averted, respectively. The findings were robust to variation in parameter values over wide ranges in sensitivity analyses.
Conclusions
Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios for neonatal intensive care imply very high value for money on the basis of conventional benchmarks for cost-effectiveness analysis.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Most pregnancies last about 40 weeks but increasing numbers of babies are being born preterm, before they reach 37 weeks of gestation (the period during which a baby develops in its mother). In developed countries and some middle-income countries such as Mexico, improvements in the care of newborn babies (neonatal intensive care) mean that more preterm babies survive now than in the past. Nevertheless, preterm birth is still a major cause of infant death worldwide that challenges attainment of Target 5 of Millennium Development Goal 4—the reduction of the global under-five mortality rate by two-thirds of the 1990 rate by 2015 (the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, aim to reduce world poverty). Furthermore, many preterm babies who survive have long-term health problems and disabilities such as cerebral palsy, deafness, or learning difficulties. The severity of these disabilities and their long-term costs to families and to society depend on the baby's degree of prematurity.
Why Was This Study Done?
Mexico recently reformed its health system in an effort to improve access to care, particularly for the poorest sections of its population, and to improve the quality of its health care. The central component of this health care reform is the System of Social Protection of Health (SSPH). The SSPH contains a family health insurance program—Seguro Popular—that aims to provide the 50 million uninsured people living in Mexico with free access to an explicit set of health care interventions. As with any insurance program, decisions have to be made about which interventions Seguro Poplar should cover. Should neonatal intensive care be covered, for example? Do the benefits of this intervention (increased survival of babies) outweigh the costs of neonatal care and of long-term care for survivors with disabilities? In other words, is neonatal intensive care cost-effective? In this study, the researchers investigate this question by estimating the clinical benefits, costs, and cost-effectiveness of neonatal intensive care in Mexico.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers built a decision analytic model, a mathematical model that combines evidence on the outcomes and costs of alternative treatments to help inform decisions about health care policy. They gathered data about the health outcomes of preterm births in Mexico from registers of births and deaths and from hospital discharge databases, and estimated the costs of neonatal intensive care and long-term care for disabled survivors using data from the Mexican Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization. They then applied their model, which estimates changes in parameters such as life expectancy, lifetime costs, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs; one DALY represents the loss of a year of healthy life), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs; the additional cost expended for each DALY averted) for neonatal intensive care compared to no intensive care, to a group of 2 million infants. Neonatal intensive care for infants born at 24–26, 27–29, and 30–33 weeks gestation prolonged life expectancy by 28, 43, and 34 years and averted 9, 15, and 12 DALYs at incremental costs of US$11,000, US$10,000, and US$3000, respectively, compared to no intensive care. The ICERs of neonatal intensive care for babies born at these times were US$1200, US$700, and US$300 per DALY averted, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Interventions with ICERs of less than a country's per capita gross domestic product (GDP) are highly cost-effective; those with ICERs of 1–3 times the per capita GDP are potentially cost-effective. Mexico's per capita GDP in 2005 was approximately US$8,200. Thus, neonatal intensive care could provide exceptional value for money in Mexico (and maybe in other middle-income countries), even for very premature babies. The accuracy of these findings inevitably depends on the assumptions used to build the decision analytic model and on the accuracy of the data fed into it, but the findings were little changed by a wide range of alterations that the researchers made to the model. Importantly, however, this cost-effectiveness analysis focuses on health and economic consequences of different intervention choices, and does not capture all aspects of well-being. Decisions regarding neonatal intensive care will need to be based on a full consideration of all relevant factors, including ethical issues, and cost-effectiveness analyses should continue to be updated as new data emerge on health outcomes and costs associated with neonatal intensive care.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000379.
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish)
The Nemours Foundation, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to other information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) works for children's rights, survival, development and protection around the world; it provides information on Millennium Development Goal 4 and its Childinfo website provides detailed statistics about child survival and health (some information in several languages)
A PLoS Medicine Policy Forum by Núria Homedes and Antonio Ugalde discusses health care reforms in Mexico
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000379
PMCID: PMC3001895  PMID: 21179496
4.  Association of Medical Students' Reports of Interactions with the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Industries and Medical School Policies and Characteristics: A Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(10):e1001743.
Aaron Kesselheim and colleagues compared US medical students' survey responses regarding pharmaceutical company interactions with the schools' AMSA PharmFree scorecard and Institute on Medicine as a Profession's (IMAP) scores.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Professional societies use metrics to evaluate medical schools' policies regarding interactions of students and faculty with the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. We compared these metrics and determined which US medical schools' industry interaction policies were associated with student behaviors.
Methods and Findings
Using survey responses from a national sample of 1,610 US medical students, we compared their reported industry interactions with their schools' American Medical Student Association (AMSA) PharmFree Scorecard and average Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) Conflicts of Interest Policy Database score. We used hierarchical logistic regression models to determine the association between policies and students' gift acceptance, interactions with marketing representatives, and perceived adequacy of faculty–industry separation. We adjusted for year in training, medical school size, and level of US National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. We used LASSO regression models to identify specific policies associated with the outcomes. We found that IMAP and AMSA scores had similar median values (1.75 [interquartile range 1.50–2.00] versus 1.77 [1.50–2.18], adjusted to compare scores on the same scale). Scores on AMSA and IMAP shared policy dimensions were not closely correlated (gift policies, r = 0.28, 95% CI 0.11–0.44; marketing representative access policies, r = 0.51, 95% CI 0.36–0.63). Students from schools with the most stringent industry interaction policies were less likely to report receiving gifts (AMSA score, odds ratio [OR]: 0.37, 95% CI 0.19–0.72; IMAP score, OR 0.45, 95% CI 0.19–1.04) and less likely to interact with marketing representatives (AMSA score, OR 0.33, 95% CI 0.15–0.69; IMAP score, OR 0.37, 95% CI 0.14–0.95) than students from schools with the lowest ranked policy scores. The association became nonsignificant when fully adjusted for NIH funding level, whereas adjusting for year of education, size of school, and publicly versus privately funded school did not alter the association. Policies limiting gifts, meals, and speaking bureaus were associated with students reporting having not received gifts and having not interacted with marketing representatives. Policy dimensions reflecting the regulation of industry involvement in educational activities (e.g., continuing medical education, travel compensation, and scholarships) were associated with perceived separation between faculty and industry. The study is limited by potential for recall bias and the cross-sectional nature of the survey, as school curricula and industry interaction policies may have changed since the time of the survey administration and study analysis.
Conclusions
As medical schools review policies regulating medical students' industry interactions, limitations on receipt of gifts and meals and participation of faculty in speaking bureaus should be emphasized, and policy makers should pay greater attention to less research-intensive institutions.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Making and selling prescription drugs and medical devices is big business. To promote their products, pharmaceutical and medical device companies build relationships with physicians by providing information on new drugs, by organizing educational meetings and sponsored events, and by giving gifts. Financial relationships begin early in physicians' careers, with companies providing textbooks and other gifts to first-year medical students. In medical school settings, manufacturers may help to inform trainees and physicians about developments in health care, but they also create the potential for harm to patients and health care systems. These interactions may, for example, reduce trainees' and trained physicians' skepticism about potentially misleading promotional claims and may encourage physicians to prescribe new medications, which are often more expensive than similar unbranded (generic) drugs and more likely to be recalled for safety reasons than older drugs. To address these and other concerns about the potential career-long effects of interactions between medical trainees and industry, many teaching hospitals and medical schools have introduced policies to limit such interactions. The development of these policies has been supported by expert professional groups and medical societies, some of which have created scales to evaluate the strength of the implemented industry interaction policies.
Why Was This Study Done?
The impact of policies designed to limit interactions between students and industry on student behavior is unclear, and it is not known which aspects of the policies are most predictive of student behavior. This information is needed to ensure that the policies are working and to identify ways to improve them. Here, the researchers investigate which medical school characteristics and which aspects of industry interaction policies are most predictive of students' reported behaviors and beliefs by comparing information collected in a national survey of US medical students with the strength of their schools' industry interaction policies measured on two scales—the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) PharmFree Scorecard and the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) Conflicts of Interest Policy Database.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers compared information about reported gift acceptance, interactions with marketing representatives, and the perceived adequacy of faculty–industry separation collected from 1,610 medical students at 121 US medical schools with AMSA and IMAP scores for the schools evaluated a year earlier. Students at schools with the highest ranked interaction policies based on the AMSA score were 63% less likely to accept gifts as students at the lowest ranked schools. Students at the highest ranked schools based on the IMAP score were about half as likely to accept gifts as students at the lowest ranked schools, although this finding was not statistically significant (it could be a chance finding). Similarly, students at the highest ranked schools were 70% less likely to interact with sales representatives as students at the lowest ranked schools. These associations became statistically nonsignificant after controlling for the amount of research funding each school received from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Policies limiting gifts, meals, and being a part of speaking bureaus (where companies pay speakers to present information about the drugs for dinners and other events) were associated with students' reports of receiving no gifts and of non-interaction with sales representatives. Finally, policies regulating industry involvement in educational activities were associated with the perceived separation between faculty and industry, which was regarded as adequate by most of the students at schools with such policies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that policies designed to limit industry interactions with medical students need to address multiple aspects of these interactions to achieve changes in the behavior and attitudes of trainees, but that policies limiting gifts, meals, and speaking bureaus may be particularly important. These findings also suggest that the level of NIH funding plays an important role in students' self-reported behaviors and their perceptions of industry, possibly because institutions with greater NIH funding have the resources needed to implement effective policies. The accuracy of these findings may be limited by recall bias (students may have reported their experiences inaccurately), and by the possibility that industry interaction policies may have changed in the year that elapsed between policy grading and the student survey. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that limitations on gifts should be emphasized when academic medical centers refine their policies on interactions between medical students and industry and that particular attention should be paid to the design and implementation of policies that regulate industry interactions in institutions with lower levels of NIH funding.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001743.
The UK General Medical Council provides guidance on financial and commercial arrangements and conflicts of interest as part of its good medical practice document, which describes what is required of all registered doctors in the UK
Information about the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) Just Medicine campaign (formerly the PharmFree campaign) and about the AMSA Scorecard is available
Information about the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and about its Conflicts of Interest Policy Database is also available
“Understanding and Responding to Pharmaceutical Promotion: A Practical Guide” is a manual prepared by Health Action International and the World Health Organization that medical schools can use to train students how to recognize and respond to pharmaceutical promotion
The US Institute of Medicine's report “Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice” recommends steps to identify, limit, and manage conflicts of interest
The ALOSA Foundation provides evidence-based, non-industry-funded education about treating common conditions and using prescription drugs
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001743
PMCID: PMC4196737  PMID: 25314155
5.  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
6.  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
7.  Configuring Balanced Scorecards for Measuring Health System Performance: Evidence from 5 Years' Evaluation in Afghanistan 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(7):e1001066.
Anbrasi Edward and colleagues report the results of a balanced scorecard performance system used to examine 29 key performance indicators over a 5-year period in Afghanistan, between 2004 and 2008.
Background
In 2004, Afghanistan pioneered a balanced scorecard (BSC) performance system to manage the delivery of primary health care services. This study examines the trends of 29 key performance indicators over a 5-year period between 2004 and 2008.
Methods and Findings
Independent evaluations of performance in six domains were conducted annually through 5,500 patient observations and exit interviews and 1,500 provider interviews in >600 facilities selected by stratified random sampling in each province. Generalized estimating equation (GEE) models were used to assess trends in BSC parameters. There was a progressive improvement in the national median scores scaled from 0–100 between 2004 and 2008 in all six domains: patient and community satisfaction of services (65.3–84.5, p<0.0001); provider satisfaction (65.4–79.2, p<0.01); capacity for service provision (47.4–76.4, p<0.0001); quality of services (40.5–67.4, p<0.0001); and overall vision for pro-poor and pro-female health services (52.0–52.6). The financial domain also showed improvement until 2007 (84.4–95.7, p<0.01), after which user fees were eliminated. By 2008, all provinces achieved the upper benchmark of national median set in 2004.
Conclusions
The BSC has been successfully employed to assess and improve health service capacity and service delivery using performance benchmarking during the 5-year period. However, scorecard reconfigurations are needed to integrate effectiveness and efficiency measures and accommodate changes in health systems policy and strategy architecture to ensure its continued relevance and effectiveness as a comprehensive health system performance measure. The process of BSC design and implementation can serve as a valuable prototype for health policy planners managing performance in similar health care contexts.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Traditionally, the performance of a health system (the complete network of health care agencies, facilities, and providers in a defined geographical region) has been measured in terms of health outcomes: how many people have been treated, how many got better, and how many died. But, nowadays, with increased demand for improved governance and accountability, policy makers are seeking comprehensive performance measures that show in detail how innovations designed to strengthen health systems are affecting service delivery and health outcomes. One such performance measure is the “balanced scorecard,” an integrated management and measurement tool that enables organizations to clarify their vision and strategy and translate them into action. The balanced scorecard—essentially a list of key performance indicators and performance benchmarks in several domains—was originally developed for industry but is now becoming a popular strategic management tool in the health sector. For example, balanced scorecards have been successfully integrated into the Dutch and Italian public health care systems.
Why Was This Study Done?
Little is known about the use of balanced scorecards in the national public health care systems of developing countries but the introduction of performance management into health system reform in fragile states in particular (developing countries where the state fails to perform the fundamental functions necessary to meet its citizens' basic needs and expectations) could help to promote governance and leadership, and facilitate essential policy changes. One fragile state that has introduced the balanced scorecard system for public health care management is Afghanistan, which emerged from decades of conflict in 2002 with some of the world's worst health indicators. To deal with an extremely high burden of disease, the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) designed a Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS), which is delivered by nongovernmental organizations and MOPH agencies. In 2004, the MOPH introduced the National Health Service Performance Assessment (NHSPA), an annual country-wide assessment of service provision and patient satisfaction and pioneered a balanced scorecard, which uses data collected in the NHSPA, to manage the delivery of primary health care services. In this study, the researchers examine the trends between 2004 and 2008 of the 29 key performance indicators in six domains included in this balanced scorecard, and consider the potential and limitations of the scorecard as a management tool to measure and improve health service delivery in Afghanistan and other similar countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Each year of the study, a random sample of 25 facilities (district hospitals and comprehensive and basic health centers) in 28 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces was chosen (one province did not have functional facilities in 2004 and the other five missing provinces were inaccessible because of ongoing conflicts). NHSPA surveyors collected approximately 5,000 patient observations, 5,000 exit interviews with patients or their caregivers, and 1,500 health provider interviews by observing consultations involving five children under 5 years old and five patients over 5 years old in each facility. The researchers then used this information to evaluate the key performance indicators in the balanced scorecard and a statistical method called generalized estimating equation modeling to assess trends in these indicators. They report that there was a progressive improvement in national average scores in all six domains (patients and community satisfaction with services, provider satisfaction, capacity for service provision, quality of services, overall vision for pro-poor and pro-female health services, and financial systems) between 2004 and 2008.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the balanced scorecard was successfully used to improve health system capacity and service delivery through performance benchmarking over the 5-year study period. Importantly, the use of the balanced scorecard helped to show the effects of investments, facilitate policy change, and create a more evidence-based decision-making culture in Afghanistan's primary health care system. However, the researchers warn that the continuing success of the balanced scorecard in Afghanistan will depend on its ability to accommodate changes in health systems policy. Furthermore, reconfigurations of the scorecard are needed to include measures of the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the health system such as mortality rates. More generally, the researchers conclude that the balanced scorecard offers a promising measure of health system performance that could be used to examine the effectiveness of health care strategies and innovations in other fragile and developing countries.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001066.
A 2010 article entitled An Afghan Success Story: The Balanced Scorecard and Improved Health Services in The Globe, a newsletter produced by the Department of International Health at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, provides a detailed description of the balanced scorecard used in this study
Wikipedia has a page on health systems and on balanced scorecards (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The World Health Organization country profile of Afghanistan provides information on the country's health system and burden of disease (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001066
PMCID: PMC3144209  PMID: 21814499
8.  Comparative Performance of Private and Public Healthcare Systems in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(6):e1001244.
A systematic review conducted by Sanjay Basu and colleagues reevaluates the evidence relating to comparative performance of public versus private sector healthcare delivery in low- and middle-income countries.
Introduction
Private sector healthcare delivery in low- and middle-income countries is sometimes argued to be more efficient, accountable, and sustainable than public sector delivery. Conversely, the public sector is often regarded as providing more equitable and evidence-based care. We performed a systematic review of research studies investigating the performance of private and public sector delivery in low- and middle-income countries.
Methods and Findings
Peer-reviewed studies including case studies, meta-analyses, reviews, and case-control analyses, as well as reports published by non-governmental organizations and international agencies, were systematically collected through large database searches, filtered through methodological inclusion criteria, and organized into six World Health Organization health system themes: accessibility and responsiveness; quality; outcomes; accountability, transparency, and regulation; fairness and equity; and efficiency. Of 1,178 potentially relevant unique citations, data were obtained from 102 articles describing studies conducted in low- and middle-income countries. Comparative cohort and cross-sectional studies suggested that providers in the private sector more frequently violated medical standards of practice and had poorer patient outcomes, but had greater reported timeliness and hospitality to patients. Reported efficiency tended to be lower in the private than in the public sector, resulting in part from perverse incentives for unnecessary testing and treatment. Public sector services experienced more limited availability of equipment, medications, and trained healthcare workers. When the definition of “private sector” included unlicensed and uncertified providers such as drug shop owners, most patients appeared to access care in the private sector; however, when unlicensed healthcare providers were excluded from the analysis, the majority of people accessed public sector care. “Competitive dynamics” for funding appeared between the two sectors, such that public funds and personnel were redirected to private sector development, followed by reductions in public sector service budgets and staff.
Conclusions
Studies evaluated in this systematic review do not support the claim that the private sector is usually more efficient, accountable, or medically effective than the public sector; however, the public sector appears frequently to lack timeliness and hospitality towards patients.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Health care can be provided through public and private providers. Public health care is usually provided by the government through national healthcare systems. Private health care can be provided through “for profit” hospitals and self-employed practitioners, and “not for profit” non-government providers, including faith-based organizations.
There is considerable ideological debate around whether low- and middle-income countries should strengthen public versus private healthcare services, but in reality, most low- and middle-income countries use both types of healthcare provision. Recently, as the global economic recession has put major constraints on government budgets—the major funding source for healthcare expenditures in most countries—disputes between the proponents of private and public systems have escalated, further fuelled by the recommendation of International Monetary Fund (an international finance institution) that countries increase the scope of private sector provision in health care as part of loan conditions to reduce government debt. However, critics of the private health sector believe that public healthcare provision is of most benefit to poor people and is the only way to achieve universal and equitable access to health care.
Why Was This Study Done?
Both sides of the public versus private healthcare debate draw on selected case reports to defend their viewpoints, but there is a widely held view that the private health system is more efficient than the public health system. Therefore, in order to inform policy, there is an urgent need for robust evidence to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the health care provided through both systems. In this study, the authors reviewed all of the evidence in a systematic way to evaluate available data on public and private sector performance.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used eight databases and a comprehensive key word search to identify and review appropriate published data and studies of private and public sector performance in low- and middle-income countries. They assessed selected studies against the World Health Organization's six essential themes of health systems—accessibility and responsiveness; quality; outcomes; accountability, transparency, and regulation; fairness and equity; and efficiency—and conducted a narrative review of each theme.
Out of the 102 relevant studies included in their comparative analysis, 59 studies were research studies and 13 involved meta-analysis, with the rest involving case reports or reviews. The researchers found that study findings varied considerably across countries studied (one-third of studies were conducted in Africa and a third in Southeast Asia) and by the methods used.
Financial barriers to care (such as user fees) were reported for both public and private systems. Although studies report that patients in the private sector experience better timeliness and hospitality, studies suggest that providers in the private sector more frequently violate accepted medical standards and have lower reported efficiency.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This systematic review did not support previous views that private sector delivery of health care in low- and middle-income settings is more efficient, accountable, or effective than public sector delivery. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses, but importantly, in both sectors, there were financial barriers to care, and each had poor accountability and transparency. This systematic review highlights a limited and poor-quality evidence base regarding the comparative performance of the two systems.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001244.
A previous PLoS Medicine study examined the outpatient care provided by the public and private sector in low-income countries
The WHO website provides more information on healthcare systems
The World Bank website provides information on health system financing
Oxfam provides an argument against increased private health care in poor countries
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001244
PMCID: PMC3378609  PMID: 22723748
9.  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
10.  Impact of Drug Cost Sharing on Service Use and Adverse Clinical Outcomes In Elderly Receiving Antidepressants 
Background
Depression imposes enormous burdens on the elderly. Despite this, rates of initiation of and adherence to recommended pharmacotherapy are frequently low in this population. Although initiatives such as the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) in have improved seniors' access to antidepressants, there are concerns that the patient cost-sharing incorporated in the MMA may have unintended consequences if it reduces essential drug use. Age-related pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic changes could make seniors particularly vulnerable to antidepressant regimens used inappropriately to save costs, increasing their risks of morbidity, hospitalizations, and nursing home placements.
Two sequential large-scale “natural experiments” in British Columbia provide a unique opportunity to evaluate the effect of cost sharing on outcomes and mental health service use among seniors. In January 2002 the province introduced a $25 Canadian copay ($10 for low-income seniors). In May 2003 this copay policy was replaced by a second policy consisting of an income-based deductible, 25% coinsurance once the deductible was met, and full coverage once an out-of-pocket ceiling was met. The transition between the two policies is analogous to what many U.S. seniors experience when they transition from private insurance requiring copays to Medicare Part D requiring deductibles and coinsurance.
Aims
To evaluate whether declines in antidepressant initiation after the introduction of two drug cost-sharing policies in British Columbia were associated with increased use of physician services, hospitalizations, and nursing home admissions among all British Columbia residents aged 65+.
Methods
Records of physician service use, inpatient hospitalizations, and residential care admissions were obtained from administrative databases. Population-level patterns over time were plotted, and effects of implementing the cost-sharing policies examined in segmented linear regression models.
Results
Neither policy affected the rates of visits to physicians or psychiatrists for depression, hospitalizations with a depression diagnosis, or long-term care admissions.
Discussion
The cost-sharing policies studied may have contained non-essential antidepressant use without substantially increasing mental health service utilization. However, it is possible that the policies had effects that we were unable to detect, such as increasing rates of visits to social workers or psychologists or forcing patients to reduce other spending. Further, the sequential implementation of the policy changes, makes it difficult to estimate the effect of a direct change from full coverage to a coinsurance/income-based deductible policy.
Implications for Health Policies
It may be possible to design policies to contain non-essential antidepressant use without substantially increasing other service utilization or adverse events. However, because undertreatment remains a serious problem among depressed elderly, well-designed prescription drug policies should be coupled with interventions to address under-treatment.
PMCID: PMC2892389  PMID: 20571181
antidepressants; prescription drug cost-sharing; prescription drug policy; elderly
11.  Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Non-Healing Ulcers in Diabetes Mellitus 
Executive Summary
Objective
To examine the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to treat people with diabetes mellitus (DM) and non-healing ulcers. This policy appraisal systematically reviews the published literature in the above patient population, and applies the results and conclusions of the review to current health care practices in Ontario, Canada.
Although HBOT is an insured service in Ontario, the costs for the technical provision of this technology are not covered publicly outside the hospital setting. Moreover, access to this treatment is limited, because many hospitals do not offer it, or are not expanding capacity to meet the demand.
Clinical Need
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease characterized by an increase in blood sugar that can lead to many severe conditions such as vision, cardiac, and vascular disorders. The prevalence of DM is difficult to estimate, because some people who have the condition are undiagnosed or may not be captured through data that reflect access to the health care system. The Canadian Diabetic Association estimates there are about 2 million people in Canada with diabetes (almost 7% of the population). According to recent data, the prevalence of DM increased from 4.72% of the population aged 20 years and over in 1995, to 6.19% of the population aged 20 years and over in 1999, or about 680,900 people in 1999. Prevalence estimates expanded to 700,000 in 2003.
About 10% to 15% of people with DM develop a foot wound in their lifetimes because of underlying peripheral neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease. This equals between 70,000 and 105,000 people in Ontario, based on the DM prevalence estimate of 700,000 people. Without early treatment, a foot ulcer may fester until it becomes infected and chronic. Chronic wounds are difficult to heal, despite medical and nursing care, and may lead to impaired quality of life and functioning, amputation, or even death.
The Technology
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been in use for about 40 years. It is thought to aid wound healing by supplying oxygen to the wound. According to the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Association, HBOT acts as a bactericidal, stops toxin production, and promotes tissue growth to heal difficult wounds.
During the procedure, a patient is placed in a compression chamber with increased pressure between 2.0 and 2.5 atmospheres absolute for 60 to 120 minutes, once or twice daily. In the chamber, the patient inhales 100% oxygen. Treatment usually runs for 15 to 20 sessions.
Noted complications are rare but may include claustrophobia; ear, sinus, or lung damage due to pressure; temporary worsening of short sightedness; and oxygen poisoning. Careful monitoring during the treatment sessions and follow-up by a trained health care provider is recommended.
Review Strategy
The aims of this health technology policy appraisal were to assess the effectiveness, safety, and cost-effectiveness of HBOT, either alone, or as an adjunct, compared with the standard treatments for non-healing foot or leg ulcers in patients with DM. The following questions were asked:
Alone or as an adjunct therapy, is HBOT more effective than other therapies for non-healing foot or leg ulcers in patients with DM?
If HBOT is effective, what is the incremental benefit over and above currently used strategies?
When is the best time in a wound treatment strategy to use HBOT?
What is the best treatment algorithm with HBOT?
The Medical Advisory Secretariat searched for health technology assessments in the published and grey literature. The search yielded 4 reports, which were published from 2000 to 2005. The most recent from the Cochrane Collaboration had a literature review and analysis of randomized control trials to 2003.
As an update to this review, as per the standard Medical Advisory Secretariat systematic review strategy, the abstracts of peer-reviewed publications were identified using Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, MEDLINE in-process and not-yet-indexed citations, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Cochrane CENTRAL, and INAHTA using key words and searching from January 1, 2003 to 2004.
The criteria for inclusion were as follows:
Patients with diabetes
Live human study
English-language study
HBOT as adjunctive therapy or alone
Randomized control trial
The number of excluded studies included the following:
2 animal studies
13 focus on condition other than DM
8 review/protocol for HBOT use
3 HBOT not focus of report
2 health technology assessments (2)
1 non-RCT
Outcomes of interest were wound healing and prevention of amputation.
The search yielded 29 articles published between 2003 and 2004. All 29 of these were excluded, as shown beside the exclusion criteria above. Therefore, this health technology policy assessment focused exclusively on the most recently published health technology assessments and systematic reviews.
Summary of Findings
Four health technology assessments and reviews were found. Cochrane Collaboration researchers published the most recent review in 2005. They included only randomized controlled trials and conducted a meta-analysis to examine wound healing and amputation outcomes. They found that, based on findings from 118 patients in 3 studies, HBOT may help to prevent major amputation (relative risk, 0.31; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.13–0.71) with a number needed to treat (NNT) of 4 (95% CI, 3–11). They noted, however, that the point estimates derived from trials were not well reported, and had varying populations with respect to wound severity, HBOT regimens, and outcome measures. These noted limitations rendered the comparison of results from the trials difficult. Further, they suggested that the evidence was not strong enough to suggest a benefit for wound healing in general or for prevention of minor amputations.
The Medical Advisory Secretariat also evaluated the studies that the Cochrane Collaboration used in their analysis, and agreed with their evaluation that the quality of the evidence was low for major and minor amputations, but low to moderate for wound healing, suggesting that the results from new and well-conducted studies would likely change the estimates calculated by Cochrane and others.
Conclusions
In 2003, the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee recommended a more coordinated strategy for wound care in Ontario to the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care. This strategy has begun at the community care and long-term care institution levels, but is pending in other areas of the health care system.
There are about 700,000 people in Ontario with diabetes; of these, 10% to 15% may have a foot ulcer sometime in their lifetimes. Foot ulcers are treatable, however, when they are identified, diagnosed and treated early according to best practice guidelines. Routine follow-up for people with diabetes who may be at risk for neuropathy and/or peripheral vascular disease may prevent subsequent foot ulcers. There are 4 chambers that provide HBOT in Ontario. Fewer than 20 people with DM received HBOT in 2003.
The quality of the evidence assessing the effectiveness of HBOT as an adjunct to standard therapy for people with non-healing diabetic foot ulcers is low, and the results are inconsistent. The results of a recent meta-analysis that found benefit of HBOT to prevent amputation are therefore uncertain. Future well-conducted studies may change the currently published estimates of effectiveness for wound healing and prevention of amputation using HBOT in the treatment of non-healing diabetic foot ulcers.
Although HBOT is an insured service in Ontario, a well conducted, randomized controlled trial that has wound healing and amputation as the primary end-points is needed before this technology is used widely among patients with foot wounds due to diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3382405  PMID: 23074462
12.  Assessing the Value of the NHIS for Studying Changes in State Coverage Policies: The Case of New York 
Health Services Research  2007;42(6 Pt 2):2332-2353.
Research Objective
(1) To assess the effects of New York's Health Care Reform Act of 2000 on the insurance coverage of eligible adults and (2) to explore the feasibility of using the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) as opposed to the Current Population Survey (CPS) to conduct evaluations of state health reform initiatives.
Study Design
We take advantage of the natural experiment that occurred in New York to compare health insurance coverage for adults before and after the state implemented its coverage initiative using a difference-in-differences framework. We estimate the effects of New York's initiative on insurance coverage using the NHIS, comparing the results to estimates based on the CPS, the most widely used data source for studies of state coverage policy changes. Although the sample sizes are smaller in the NHIS, the NHIS addresses a key limitation of the CPS for such evaluations by providing a better measure of health insurance status. Given the complexity of the timing of the expansion efforts in New York (which encompassed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks), we allow for difference in the effects of the state's policy changes over time. In particular, we allow for differences between the period of Disaster Relief Medicaid (DRM), which was a temporary program implemented immediately after September 11th, and the original components of the state's reform efforts—Family Health Plus (FHP), an expansion of direct Medicaid coverage, and Healthy New York (HNY), an effort to make private coverage more affordable.
Data Sources
2000–2004 CPS; 1999–2004 NHIS.
Principal Findings
We find evidence of a significant reduction in uninsurance for parents in New York, particularly in the period following DRM. For childless adults, for whom the coverage expansion was more circumscribed, the program effects are less promising, as we find no evidence of a significant decline in uninsurance.
Conclusions
The success of New York at reducing uninsurance for parents through expansions of both public and private coverage offers hope for new strategies to expand coverage. The NHIS is a strong data source for evaluations of many state health reform initiatives, providing a better measure of insurance status and supporting a more comprehensive study of state innovations than is possible with the CPS.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2007.00767.x
PMCID: PMC2151317  PMID: 17995546
Health insurance; Medicaid; state health reform
13.  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
14.  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
15.  Private Hospital Sector Development: An Exploratory Study on Providers Perspective in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 
Ethiopian Journal of Health Sciences  2011;21(Suppl 1):59-64.
Background
Over the past decade there is a trend of fast development in the private hospital sector in Ethiopia. This important component of the health care system has received policy attention and federal government is a promoter for private health care. Yet lack of basic data on the factors affecting the growth of private health care provision in the country and no studies are available on this issue in Ethiopia. The aim of this study is to get some preliminary insights on the factors affecting the growth and development of private hospital sector in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with perspective of provider.
Methods
A hospital based qualitative study was conducted in 25 for-profit hospitals in Addis Ababa using key informant in-depth interviews and secondary data was collected from Federal Ministry of Health and Addis Ababa City Health Administration and private hospital providers.
Results
The findings of the study suggest that private hospital sector is expanding significantly in recent years in Ethiopia. The active role of government is a catalyst for the growth of private facilities in the country. Factors outside the health are growing disposable income, improvements in literacy, road networks, population growth and long standing diseases, all contribute to the trend. But private providers are facing many problems, like availability of trained manpower, escalation of costs, availability and quality of drugs and financing mechanisms.
Conclusion
Private hospital sector is expanding in Ethiopia. But private providers are vulnerable to imperfections in the existing market structure. Government and professional bodies need to make a concerted effort to address these issues and design appropriate strategies to promote and regulate this sector effectively.
PMCID: PMC3275879  PMID: 22435009
Private hospital sector; Development; Providers
16.  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
17.  Diet and Physical Activity for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Policy Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(6):e1001465.
Carl Lachat and colleagues evaluate policies in low- and middle-income countries addressing salt and fat consumption, fruit and vegetable intake, and physical activity, key risk factors for non-communicable diseases.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Diet-related noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are increasing rapidly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and constitute a leading cause of mortality. Although a call for global action has been resonating for years, the progress in national policy development in LMICs has not been assessed. This review of strategies to prevent NCDs in LMICs provides a benchmark against which policy response can be tracked over time.
Methods and Findings
We reviewed how government policies in LMICs outline actions that address salt consumption, fat consumption, fruit and vegetable intake, or physical activity. A structured content analysis of national nutrition, NCDs, and health policies published between 1 January 2004 and 1 January 2013 by 140 LMIC members of the World Health Organization (WHO) was carried out. We assessed availability of policies in 83% (116/140) of the countries. NCD strategies were found in 47% (54/116) of LMICs reviewed, but only a minority proposed actions to promote healthier diets and physical activity. The coverage of policies that specifically targeted at least one of the risk factors reviewed was lower in Africa, Europe, the Americas, and the Eastern Mediterranean compared to the other two World Health Organization regions, South-East Asia and Western Pacific. Of the countries reviewed, only 12% (14/116) proposed a policy that addressed all four risk factors, and 25% (29/116) addressed only one of the risk factors reviewed. Strategies targeting the private sector were less frequently encountered than strategies targeting the general public or policy makers.
Conclusions
This review indicates the disconnection between the burden of NCDs and national policy responses in LMICs. Policy makers urgently need to develop comprehensive and multi-stakeholder policies to improve dietary quality and physical activity.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)—chronic medical conditions including cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke), diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma)—are responsible for two-thirds of the world's deaths. Nearly 80% of NCD deaths, close to 30 million per year, occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where they are also rising most rapidly. Diet and lifestyle (including smoking, lack of exercise, and harmful alcohol consumption) influence a person's risk of developing an NCD and of dying from it. Because they can be modified, these risk factors have been at the center of strategies to combat NCDs. In 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. For diet, it recommended that individuals achieve energy balance and a healthy weight; limit energy intake from total fats and shift fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids; increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts; limit the intake of free sugars; and limit salt consumption from all sources and ensure that salt is iodized. For physical activity, it recommended at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity physical activity on most days throughout a person's life.
Why Was This Study Done?
By signing onto the Global Strategy in 2004, WHO member countries agreed to implement it with high priority. A first step of implementation is usually the development of local policies. Consequently, one of the four objectives of the WHO Global Strategy is “to encourage the development, strengthening and implementation of global, regional, national and community policies and action plans to improve diets and increase physical activity.” Along the same lines, in 2011 the United Nations held a high-level meeting in which the need to accelerate the policy response to the NCD epidemic was emphasized. This study was done to assess the existing national policies on NCD prevention in LMICs. Specifically, the researchers examined how well those policies matched the WHO recommendations for intake of salt, fat, and fruits and vegetables, as well as the recommendations for physical activity.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched the Internet (including websites of relevant ministries and departments) for all publicly available national policies related to diet, nutrition, NCDs, and health from all 140 WHO member countries classified as LMICs by the World Bank in 2011. For countries for which the search did not turn up policies, the researchers sent e-mail requests to the relevant national authorities, to the regional WHO offices, and to personal contacts. All documents dated from 1 January 2004 to 1 January 2013 that included national objectives and guidelines for action regarding diet, physical exercise, NCD prevention, or a combination of the three, were analyzed in detail.
Most of the policies obtained were not easy to find and access. For 24 countries, particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean, the researchers eventually gave up, unable to establish whether relevant national policies existed. Of the remaining 116 countries, 29 countries had no relevant policies, and another 30 had policies that failed to mention specifically any of the diet-related risk factors included in the analysis. Fifty-four of the 116 countries had NCD policies that addressed at least one of the risk factors. Thirty-six national policy documents contained strategies to increase fruit and vegetable intake, 20 addressed dietary fat consumption, 23 aimed to limit salt intake, and 35 had specific actions to promote physical activity. Only 14 countries, including Jamaica, the Philippines, Iran, and Mongolia, had policies that addressed all four risk factors. The policies of 27 countries mentioned only one of the four risk factors.
Policies primarily targeted consumers and government agencies and failed to address the roles of the business community or civil society. Consistent with this, most were missing plans, mechanisms, and incentives to drive collaborations between the different stakeholders.
What Do These Findings Mean?
More than eight years after the WHO Global Strategy was agreed upon, only a minority of the LMICs included in this analysis have comprehensive policies in place. Developing policies and making them widely accessible is a likely early step toward specific implementation and actions to prevent NCDs. These results therefore suggest that not enough emphasis is placed on NCD prevention in these countries through actions that have been proven to reduce known risk factors. That said, the more important question is what countries are actually doing to combat NCDs, something not directly addressed by this analysis.
In richer countries, NCDs have for decades been the leading cause of sickness and death, and the fact that public health strategies need to emphasize NCD prevention is now widely recognized. LMICs not only have more limited resources, they also continue to carry a large burden from infectious diseases. It is therefore not surprising that shifting resources towards NCD prevention is a difficult process, even if the human cost of these diseases is massive and increasing. That only about 3% of global health aid is aimed at NCD prevention does not help the situation.
The authors argue that one step toward improving the situation is better sharing of best practices and what works and what doesn't in policy development. They suggest that an open-access repository like one that exists for Europe could improve the situation. They offer to organize, host, and curate such a resource under the auspices of WHO, starting with the policies retrieved for this study, and they invite submission of additional policies and updates.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001465.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Stuckler and Basu
The WHO website on diet and physical activity contains links to various documents, including a diet and physical activity implementation toolbox that contains links to the 2004 Global Strategy document and a Framework to Monitor and Evaluate Implementation
There is a 2011 WHO primer on NCDs entitled Prioritizing a Preventable Epidemic
A recent PLOS Medicine editorial and call for papers addressing the global disparities in the burden from NCDs
A PLOS Blogs post entitled Politics and Global HealthAre We Missing the Obvious? and associated comments discuss the state of the fight against NCDs in early 2013
The NCD Alliance was founded by the Union for International Cancer Control, the International Diabetes Federation, the World Heart Federation, and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease; its mission is to combat the NCD epidemic by putting health at the center of all policies
The WHO European Database on Nutrition, Obesity and Physical Activity (NOPA) contains national and subnational surveillance data, policy documents, actions to implement policy, and examples of good practice in programs and interventions for the WHO European member states
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001465
PMCID: PMC3679005  PMID: 23776415
18.  Hospital Performance, the Local Economy, and the Local Workforce: Findings from a US National Longitudinal Study 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(6):e1000297.
Blustein and colleagues examine the associations between changes in hospital performance and their local economic resources. Locationally disadvantaged hospitals perform poorly on key indicators, raising concerns that pay-for-performance models may not reduce inequality.
Background
Pay-for-performance is an increasingly popular approach to improving health care quality, and the US government will soon implement pay-for-performance in hospitals nationwide. Yet hospital capacity to perform (and improve performance) likely depends on local resources. In this study, we quantify the association between hospital performance and local economic and human resources, and describe possible implications of pay-for-performance for socioeconomic equity.
Methods and Findings
We applied county-level measures of local economic and workforce resources to a national sample of US hospitals (n = 2,705), during the period 2004–2007. We analyzed performance for two common cardiac conditions (acute myocardial infarction [AMI] and heart failure [HF]), using process-of-care measures from the Hospital Quality Alliance [HQA], and isolated temporal trends and the contributions of individual resource dimensions on performance, using multivariable mixed models. Performance scores were translated into net scores for hospitals using the Performance Assessment Model, which has been suggested as a basis for reimbursement under Medicare's “Value-Based Purchasing” program. Our analyses showed that hospital performance is substantially associated with local economic and workforce resources. For example, for HF in 2004, hospitals located in counties with longstanding poverty had mean HQA composite scores of 73.0, compared with a mean of 84.1 for hospitals in counties without longstanding poverty (p<0.001). Hospitals located in counties in the lowest quartile with respect to college graduates in the workforce had mean HQA composite scores of 76.7, compared with a mean of 86.2 for hospitals in the highest quartile (p<0.001). Performance on AMI measures showed similar patterns. Performance improved generally over the study period. Nevertheless, by 2007—4 years after public reporting began—hospitals in locationally disadvantaged areas still lagged behind their locationally advantaged counterparts. This lag translated into substantially lower net scores under the Performance Assessment Model for hospital reimbursement.
Conclusions
Hospital performance on clinical process measures is associated with the quantity and quality of local economic and human resources. Medicare's hospital pay-for-performance program may exacerbate inequalities across regions, if implemented as currently proposed. Policymakers in the US and beyond may need to take into consideration the balance between greater efficiency through pay-for-performance and socioeconomic equity.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
These days, many people are rewarded for working hard and efficiently by being given bonuses when they reach preset performance targets. With a rapidly aging population and rising health care costs, policy makers in many developed countries are considering ways of maximizing value for money, including rewarding health care providers when they meet targets, under “pay-for-performance.” In the UK, for example, a major pay-for-performance initiative—the Quality and Outcomes Framework—began in 2004. All the country's general practices (primary health care facilities that deal with all medical ailments) now detail their achievements in terms of numerous clinical quality indicators for common chronic conditions (for example, the regularity of blood sugar checks for people with diabetes). They are then rewarded on the basis of these results.
Why Was This Study Done?
In the US, the government is poised to implement a nationwide pay-for-performance program in hospitals within Medicare, the government program that provides health insurance to Americans aged 65 years or older, as well as people with disabilities. However, some observers are concerned about the effect that the proposed pay-for-performance program might have on the distribution of health care resources in the US. Pay-for-performance assumes that health care providers have the economic and human resources that they need to perform or to improve their performance. But, if a hospital's capacity to perform depends on local resources, payment based on performance might worsen existing health care inequalities because hospitals in under-resourced areas might lose funds to hospitals in more affluent regions. In other words, the government might act as a reverse Robin Hood, taking from the poor and giving to the rich. In this study, the researchers examine the association between hospital performance and local economic and human resources, to explore whether this scenario is a plausible result of the pending change in US hospital reimbursement.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
US hospitals have voluntarily reported their performance on indicators of clinical care (“process-of-care measures”) for acute myocardial infarction (AMI, heart attack), heart failure (HF), and pneumonia under the Hospital Quality Alliance (HQA) program since 2004. The researchers identified 2,705 hospitals that had fully reported process-of-care measures for AMI and HF in both 2004 and 2007. They then used the “Performance Assessment Model” (a methodology developed by the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to score hospital performance) to calculate scores for each hospital. Finally, they looked for associations between these scores and measures of the hospital's local economic and human resources such as population poverty levels and the percentage of college graduates in the workforce. Hospital performance was associated with local and economic workforce capacity, they report. Thus, hospitals in counties with longstanding poverty had lower average performance scores for HF and AMI than hospitals in affluent counties. Similarly, hospitals in counties with a low percentage of college graduates in the workforce had lower average performance scores than hospitals in counties where more of the workforce had been to college. Finally, although performance improved generally over the study period, hospitals in disadvantaged areas still lagged behind hospitals in advantaged areas in 2007.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that hospital performance (as measured by the clinical process measures considered here) is associated with the quantity and quality of local human and economic resources. Thus, the proposed Medicare hospital pay-for-performance program may exacerbate existing US health care inequalities by leading to the transfer of funds from hospitals in disadvantaged locations to those in advantaged locations. Although further studies are needed to confirm this conclusion, these findings have important implications for pay-for-performance programs in health care. They suggest that US policy makers may need to modify how they measure performance improvement—the current Performance Assessment Model gives hospitals that start from a low baseline less credit for improvements than those that start from a high baseline. This works against hospitals in disadvantaged locations, which start at a low baseline. Second and more generally, they suggest that there may be a tension between the efficiency goals of pay-for-performance and other equity goals of health care systems. In a world where resources vary across regions, the expectation that regions can perform equally may not be realistic.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000297.
KaiserEDU.org is an online resource for learning about the US health care system. It includes educational modules on such topics as the Medicare program and efforts to improve the quality of care
The Hospital Quality Alliance provides information on the quality of care in US hospitals
Information about the UK National Health Service Quality and Outcomes Framework pay-for-performance initiative for general practice surgeries is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000297
PMCID: PMC2893955  PMID: 20613863
19.  Health Insurance and Length of Stay for Children Hospitalized With Community-Acquired Pneumonia 
BACKGROUND
Disparities in patterns of care and outcomes for ambulatory-care sensitive childhood conditions such as community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) persist. However, the influence of insurance status on length of stay (LOS) for children hospitalized with CAP remains unexplored.
METHODS
Secondary analysis of children (<18 years) hospitalized with CAP sampled in the Kids’ Inpatient Database (KID) for years 1997, 2000, 2003, and 2006. Insurance status (private, public, uninsured) was based on claims data. Hospital LOS was calculated in days. Taking into account the complex sampling design, negative binomial regression models produced adjusted estimates of incidence rate ratios (IRR) for hospital LOS for children by insurance status.
RESULTS
There was little variation in the categories of insurance status of children hospitalized with CAP between 1997 and 2006, with at least 40% privately insured, at least 40% publicly insured, and at least 5% uninsured in each sampled year. In all years, publicly insured children had a significantly longer hospital stay than privately insured children, and uninsured children had a significantly shorter hospital stay than privately insured children. These observed differences persisted after multivariate adjustment.
CONCLUSIONS
Differences in LOS between uninsured, publicly insured, and privately insured children with CAP raise concerns about potential differences in hospital discharge practices related to insurance status and type. As healthcare reform is implemented, policy makers should strengthen efforts to reduce these disparities in order to achieve health for the population.
doi:10.1002/jhm.959
PMCID: PMC3877930  PMID: 21972214
20.  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
21.  Positioning women's and children's health in African union policy-making: a policy analysis 
Background
With limited time to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, progress towards improving women's and children's health needs to be accelerated. With Africa accounting for over half of the world's maternal and child deaths, the African Union (AU) has a critical role in prioritizing related policies and catalysing required investments and action. In this paper, the authors assess the evolution of African Union policies related to women's and children's health, and analyze how these policies are prioritized and framed.
Methods
The main method used in this policy analysis was a document review of all African Union policies developed from 1963 to 2010, focusing specifically on policies that explicitly mention health. The findings from this document review were discussed with key actors to identify policy implications.
Results
With over 220 policies in total, peace and security is the most common AU policy topic. Social affairs and other development issues became more prominent in the 1990s. The number of policies that mentioned health rose steadily over the years (with 1 policy mentioning health in 1963 to 7 in 2010).
This change was catalysed by factors such as: a favourable shift in AU priorities and systems towards development issues, spurred by the transition from the Organization of African Unity to the African Union; the mandate of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights; health-related advocacy initiatives, such as the Campaign for the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA); action and accountability requirements arising from international human rights treaties, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and new health-funding mechanisms, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Prioritization of women's and children's health issues in AU policies has been framed primarily by human rights, advocacy and accountability considerations, more by economic and health frames looking at investments and impact. AU policies related to reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health also use fewer policy frames than do AU policies related to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
Conclusion
We suggest that more effective prioritization of women's and children's health in African Union policies would be supported by widening the range of policy frames used (notably health and economic) and strengthening the evidence base of all policy frames used. In addition, we suggest it would be beneficial if the partner groups advocating for women's and children's health were multi-stakeholder, and included, for instance, health care professionals, regional institutions, parliamentarians, the media, academia, NGOs, development partners and the public and private sectors.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-8-3
PMCID: PMC3298467  PMID: 22340362
African Union; Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); policy-making; women's and children's health
22.  Explanation of inequality in utilization of ambulatory care before and after universal health insurance in Thailand 
Health Policy and Planning  2010;26(2):105-114.
Thailand implemented a Universal Coverage Scheme (UCS) of national health insurance in April 2001 to finance equitable access to health care. This paper compares inequalities in health service use before and after the UCS, and analyses the trend and determinants of inequality.
The national Health and Welfare Surveys of 2001 and 2005 are used for this study. The concentration index for use of ambulatory care among the population reporting a recent illness is used as a measure of health inequality, decomposed into contributing demographic, socio-economic, geographic and health insurance determinants.
As a result of the UCS, the uninsured group fell from 24% in 2001 to 3% in 2005 and health service patterns changed. Use of public primary health care facilities such as health centres became more concentrated among the poor, while use of provincial/general hospitals became more concentrated among the better-off.
Decomposition analysis shows that the increasingly common use of health centres among the poor in 2005 was substantially associated with those with lower income, residence in the rural northeast and the introduction of the UCS. The increasing use of provincial/general hospitals and private clinics among the better-off in 2005 was substantially associated with the government and private employee insurance schemes.
Although the UCS scheme has achieved its objective in increasing insurance coverage and utilization of primary health services, our findings point to the need for future policies to focus on the quality of this primary care and equitable referrals to secondary and tertiary health facilities when required.
doi:10.1093/heapol/czq028
PMCID: PMC3040370  PMID: 20736414
Health services research; health care utilization; health inequalities; universal health insurance; decomposition; Thailand
23.  The Brazil SimSmoke Policy Simulation Model: The Effect of Strong Tobacco Control Policies on Smoking Prevalence and Smoking-Attributable Deaths in a Middle Income Nation 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(11):e1001336.
David Levy and colleagues use the SimSmoke model to estimate the effect of Brazil's recent stronger tobacco control policies on smoking prevalence and associated premature mortality, and the effect that additional policies may have.
Background
Brazil has reduced its smoking rate by about 50% in the last 20 y. During that time period, strong tobacco control policies were implemented. This paper estimates the effect of these stricter policies on smoking prevalence and associated premature mortality, and the effect that additional policies may have.
Methods and Findings
The model was developed using the SimSmoke tobacco control policy model. Using policy, population, and smoking data for Brazil, the model assesses the effect on premature deaths of cigarette taxes, smoke-free air laws, mass media campaigns, marketing restrictions, packaging requirements, cessation treatment programs, and youth access restrictions. We estimate the effect of past policies relative to a counterfactual of policies kept to 1989 levels, and the effect of stricter future policies. Male and female smoking prevalence in Brazil have fallen by about half since 1989, which represents a 46% (lower and upper bounds: 28%–66%) relative reduction compared to the 2010 prevalence under the counterfactual scenario of policies held to 1989 levels. Almost half of that 46% reduction is explained by price increases, 14% by smoke-free air laws, 14% by marketing restrictions, 8% by health warnings, 6% by mass media campaigns, and 10% by cessation treatment programs. As a result of the past policies, a total of almost 420,000 (260,000–715,000) deaths had been averted by 2010, increasing to almost 7 million (4.5 million–10.3 million) deaths projected by 2050. Comparing future implementation of a set of stricter policies to a scenario with 2010 policies held constant, smoking prevalence by 2050 could be reduced by another 39% (29%–54%), and 1.3 million (0.9 million–2.0 million) out of 9 million future premature deaths could be averted.
Conclusions
Brazil provides one of the outstanding public health success stories in reducing deaths due to smoking, and serves as a model for other low and middle income nations. However, a set of stricter policies could further reduce smoking and save many additional lives.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Tobacco kills up to half its users—more than 5 million smokers die every year from tobacco-related causes. It also kills more than half a million non-smokers annually who have been exposed to second-hand smoke. If current trends continue, annual tobacco-related deaths could increase to more than 8 million by 2030. In response to this global tobacco epidemic, the World Health Organization has developed an international instrument for tobacco control called the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Since it came into force in February 2005, 176 countries have become parties to the FCTC. As such, they agree to implement comprehensive bans on tobacco advertizing, promotion, and sponsorship; to ban misleading and deceptive terms on tobacco packaging; to protect people from exposure to cigarette smoke in public spaces and indoor workplaces; to implement tax policies aimed at reducing tobacco consumption; and to combat illicit trade in tobacco products.
Why Was This Study Done?
Brazil has played a pioneering role in providing support for tobacco control measures in low and middle income countries. It introduced its first cigarette-specific tax in 1990 and, in 1996, it placed the first warnings on cigarette packages and introduced smoke-free air laws. Many of these measures have subsequently been strengthened. Over the same period, the prevalence of smoking among adults (the proportion of the population that smokes) has halved in Brazil, falling from 34.8% in 1989 to 18.5% in 2008. But did the introduction of tobacco control policies contribute to this decline, and if so, which were the most effective policies? In this study, the researchers use a computational model called the SimSmoke tobacco control policy model to investigate this question and to examine the possible effect of introducing additional control policies consistent with the FCTC, which Brazil has been a party to since 2006.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed Brazil SimSmoke by incorporating policy, population, and smoking data for Brazil into the SimSmoke simulation model; Brazil SimSmoke estimates smoking prevalence and smoking-attributable deaths from 1989 forwards. They then compared smoking prevalences and smoking-attributable deaths estimated by Brazil SimSmoke for 2010 with and without the inclusion of the tobacco control policies that were introduced between 1989 and 2010. The model estimated that the smoking prevalence in Brazil in 2010 was reduced by 46% by the introduction of tobacco control measures. Almost half of this reduction was explained by price increases, 14% by smoke-free laws, 14% by marketing restrictions, 8% by health warnings, 6% by anti-smoking media campaigns, and 10% by cessation treatment programs. Moreover, as a result of past policies, the model estimated that almost 420,000 tobacco-related deaths had been averted by 2010 and that almost 7 million deaths will have been averted by 2050. Finally, using the model to compare the effects of a scenario that includes stricter policies (for example, an increase in tobacco tax) with a scenario that includes the 2010 policies only, indicated that stricter control policies would reduce the estimated smoking prevalence by an extra 39% between 2010 and 2050 and avert about 1.3 million additional premature deaths.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that the introduction of tobacco control policies has been a critical factor in the rapid decline in smoking prevalence in Brazil over the past 20 years. They also suggest that the introduction of stricter policies that are fully consistent with the FCTC has the potential to reduce the prevalence of smoking further and save many additional lives. Although the reduction in smoking prevalence in Brazil between 1989 and 2010 predicted by the Brazil SimSmoke model is close to the recorded reduction over that period, these findings need to be interpreted with caution because of the many assumptions incorporated in the model. Moreover, the accuracy of the model's predictions depends on the accuracy of the data fed into it, some of which was obtained from other countries and may not accurately reflect the situation in Brazil. Importantly, however, these findings show that, even for a middle income nation, reducing tobacco use is a “winnable battle” that carries huge dividends in terms of reducing illness and death without requiring unlimited resources.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001336.
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages), about the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and about tobacco control in Brazil
The Framework Convention Alliance provides more information about the FCTC
The Brazilian National Cancer Institute (INCA) provides information on tobacco control policies in Brazil; additional information about tobacco control laws in Brazil is available on the Tobacco Control Laws interactive website, which provides information about tobacco control legislation worldwide
More information on the SimSmoke model of tobacco control policies is available in document or slideshow form
SmokeFree, a website provided by the UK National Health Service, offers advice on quitting smoking and includes personal stories from people who have stopped smoking
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001336
PMCID: PMC3491001  PMID: 23139643
24.  Income-Based Drug Coverage in British Columbia: Lessons for BC and the Rest of Canada 
Healthcare Policy  2006;2(2):115-127.
Background:
In May 2003, the government of British Columbia adopted income-based pharmacare, replacing an age-based drug benefits program. Stated policy goals included reducing government spending, maintaining or enhancing access to medicines and improving financial equity. The province’s experience on these policy dimensions can inform policy making in other jurisdictions and offers insight into priorities for Canada’s National Pharmaceuticals Strategy.
Method:
The research team created an anonymized database with information about drug use, private and public expenditure and household income for all residents of British Columbia from 1996 to 2004. This database was used to evaluate the impact of the policy on trends in drug expenditures, utilization and sources of payment for seniors and non-seniors of different income levels.
Results:
In the immediate term, Fair PharmaCare appears to have met many of its policy goals. Government spending was reduced. Access to medicines was maintained (though not enhanced). And the distributions of private and public expenditures were brought more closely in line with distribution of income. Long-run impacts depend largely on how a reduced role for government affects trends in costs, access and equity. Early indications suggest that a larger role for government may be needed to maintain performance on desired policy objectives over time.
Conclusion:
In the long run, there is reason for setting a new national standard for pharmacare that increases, not decreases, the share of publicly covered spending in every province. The federal government could play a key role by helping provinces increase public funding for prescription drugs and thereby facilitate cost control, maintain access to medicines and enhance financial equity.
PMCID: PMC2585436  PMID: 19305708
25.  Income-Based Drug Coverage in British Columbia: The Impact on Private and Public Expenditures 
Healthcare Policy  2006;2(2):e129-e153.
Background and Objectives:
In May 2003, the government of British Columbia adopted income-based pharmacare, replacing an age-based program. Stated policy goals included the reduction and reallocation of government spending. It was also hoped that income-based deductibles would increase consumer price sensitivity in decision-making. This analysis measured policy impacts on private and public expenditure and on expenditure drivers.
Methods:
We employed a longitudinal research design using PharmaNet records of every prescription dispensed in the province from January 1996 to December 2004. Expenditure dynamics were analyzed using non-stochastic decompositions of trends. Analyses were stratified by five age categories and five socio-economic quintiles. The effect of the policy on expenditure trends and their sources was assessed using time series analysis. Additional analyses, using equivalent methods, were conducted using market-level data to compare per capita expenditure in British Columbia to the Canadian average over the period 1998–2004.
Results:
The BC Ministry of Health was successful in reducing the public share of drug expenditure through the introduction of seniors’ co-payments in 2002 and then income-based pharmacare in 2003. The policy change did not have major effects on aggregate expenditure trends in the province. While several statistically significant changes in expenditure dynamics occurred during the period of study, only an increase in seasonal “stockpiling” of medicines by seniors can reasonably be attributed to the policy changes.
Discussion:
The lack of large and differential policy impacts on drug expenditure and utilization rates across age and income groups suggests that changes in the BC PharmaCare Program were designed in a manner that ensured continued access to medicines for the populations previously served by the drug plan (e.g., senior citizens). It also indicates that the policy did not significantly increase access to medicines by populations that might have been better served under the new policy (e.g., non-seniors). Finally, although it was hoped that income-based pharmacare might increase consumer cost consciousness, changes in the relative cost of certain drugs purchased following the policy change appear to have stemmed from other policies directly targeting the expenditure impact of therapeutic choices.
PMCID: PMC2585443  PMID: 19305696

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