The potential role of risk-equalization mechanisms in health insurance: the case of South Africa.
International agencies such as the World Bank have widely advocated the use of health insurance as a way of improving health sector efficiency and equity in developing countries. However, in developing countries with well-established, multiple-player health insurance markets, such as South Africa, extension of insurance coverage is now inhibited by problems of moral hazard, and associated cost escalation and fragmentation of insurer risk-pools. Virtually no research has been done on the problem of risk selection in health insurance outside developed countries. This paper provides a brief overview of the problem of risk fragmentation as it has been studied in developed countries, and attempts to apply this to middle-income country settings, particularly that of South Africa. A number of possible remedial measures are discussed, with risk-equalization funds being given the most attention. An overview is given of the risk-equalization approach, common misconceptions regarding its working and the processes that might be required to assess its suitability in different national settings. Where there is widespread public support for social risk pooling in health care, and government is willing and able to assume a regulatory role to achieve this, risk-equalization approaches may achieve significant efficiency and equity gains without destroying the positive features of private health care financing, such as revenue generation, competition and free choice of insurer. (+info)
Inborn errors of metabolism: medical and administrative "orphans".
CONTEXT: Inborn errors of metabolism are genetic conditions that affect the normal biochemical functions of the body in any organ and at any age. More than 500 metabolic diseases are known; almost all are classified as orphan diseases under the US Food and Drug Administration guidelines (incidence < 200,000 persons) and each has its own requirements for diagnosis and treatment. Management of these complex, lifelong, multisystem disorders often requires a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach involving several subspecialists and which may include complex laboratory evaluations, genetic counseling, nutritional therapy, and unusual therapeutic approaches that have been used in only a small number of cases. RESULTS: Not infrequently, inborn errors of metabolism fall outside current standard diagnostic and treatment guidelines of managed care plans. This results in delays in diagnosis and appropriate management, with increased costs to patients and to society. CONCLUSIONS: Patients with inborn errors of metabolism should not be discriminated against and all health plans should specify that access to specialists and metabolic centers are a covered benefit of the plan. The acceptance of treatment guidelines, the development of international disease classification codes for the disorders, and the performance of cost-benefit analyses would all greatly facilitate this process. However, without recognition that these disorders require such services, and steps to provide them by the insurance industry, the care of children with metabolic disorders and other chronic diseases will continue to be a source of frustration and anger among the caregivers and the families they serve. (+info)
Health care in Canada: incrementalism under fiscal duress.
Driven by fiscal pressures in the 1990s, Canada's provincial Medicare systems cut inpatient care, expanded community services, and consolidated hospitals under regional authorities in nine of ten provinces. Public confidence has been badly shaken by the transition. No province has successfully integrated services across the continuum of care. Home care and prescription drug coverage vary from province to province. Efforts to reform physician payment have stalled, and capacity to measure and manage the quality of care is generally underdeveloped. Thus, for the next few years, policymakers must stabilize the acute care sector, while cautiously pursuing an agenda of piece-meal reforms. (+info)
Health care reform in Japan: the virtues of muddling through.
Japan's universal and egalitarian health care system helps to keep its population healthy at an exceptionally low cost. Its financing and delivery systems have been adapted over the years in a gradual way that preserves balance. In particular, its mandatory fee schedule has proved to be effective in controlling spending by manipulating prices. Today, with severe fiscal problems, pressures are mounting for more radical reforms. However, these proposals attack the wrong problems and are impractical. Real problems include inequitable health insurance financing and insufficient regard for quality of hospital care. We suggest incremental reforms that would improve these situations. (+info)
Incremental change in the Australian health care system.
Australia is similar to the United States in that it is a federation of states, its medical profession is well organized and politically powerful, and it has a substantial private sector. Unlike the United States, Australia provides universal access to health care and has controlled its total health care spending to around 8.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). This paper reviews the role of private health insurance and recent initiatives to support this; the strategies used to control costs in the fee-for-service sector; and the capacity for experimentation in health care financing within a national system that guarantees universal access. (+info)
The uninsured, the working uninsured, and the public.
Recent opinion surveys show a high level of public support for the current employer-based health insurance system. Many Americans are not aware that this system is endangered or that the number of uninsured persons is growing. The public appears to favor a two-track system for the working uninsured--strengthening the existing employer-based system and developing a parallel system for those without employer coverage. (+info)
Can social insurance for long-term care work? The experience of Germany.
In 1994 Germany enacted a universal-coverage social insurance program for long-term care to largely replace its means-tested system. The program has achieved many of its stated policy goals: shifting the financial burden of long-term care off the states and municipalities; expanding home and community-based services; lessening dependence on means-tested welfare; and increasing support of informal caregivers. Many of these goals were reached without exploding caseloads or uncontrolled expenditures. We examine the German long-term insurance program, focusing on issues of financing, eligibility and assessment, benefits, availability of services, and quality assurance. (+info)
The elderly in five nations: the importance of universal coverage.
This paper reports 1999 survey results on the population age sixty-five and older in five nations--Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The majority of respondents were generally satisfied with the quality, affordability, and availability of health services in their nations. In many measures of access to and cost of care, the United States looks much like the other nations surveyed. However, as the elderly view their health systems, the direction they have taken in recent years with respect to caring for the elderly, and the future affordability of care in old age, U.S. respondents tended to be more pessimistic than were those in other nations. (+info)