Market-oriented health care reforms: Trends and future options
In many (predominantly) publicly financed health care systems market-oriented health care reforms are being implemented or have been proposed. The purpose of these reforms is to make resource allocation in health care more efficient, more innovative and more responsive to consumers preferences while maintaining equity. At the same time, the advances in technology result in a divergence of consumers' preferences with respect to health care and urge society to (re)think about the meaning of the solidarity principle in health care. In this paper we indicate some international trends in health care reforms and explore some potential future options. From an international perspective we can observe a trend towards universal mandatory health insurance, contracts between third-party purchasers and the providers of care, competition among providers of care and a strengthening of primary care. These trends can be expected to continue. A more controversial issue is whether there should also be competition among the third-party purchasers and whether in the long run there will occur a convergence towards some "ideal" model. Although regulated competition in health care can be expected to yield more value for money, it might yield both more efficiency and higher total costs. It has been argued that equity can be maintained in a competitive health care system if we interpret equity as "equal access to cost-effective care within a reasonable period of time". Because the effectiveness of care has to be considered in relation to the medical indication and the condition of the patient, the responsibility for cost-effective care rests primarily with the providers of care. Guidelines and protocols should be developed by the profession and sustained by financial incentives embedded in contracts. It has been argued that the third-party purchasers could start to concentrate on the contracts with the primary care physicians. Contracts with other providers could then be a natural complement to these contracts. Coordinated-care contracts between the third-party purchasers and the consumer of care could provide the consumer with monetary incentives to go to efficient providers. A consumer choice of insurance contract could give the consumer an opportunity to make important choices in health care. However, each society has to make its own choices about what care should be available to everybody independent of an individual's purchasing power.
Volume (Year): 43 (1996)
Issue (Month): 5 (September)
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