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Informal payments for health care in transition economies

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  • Ensor, Tim

Abstract

There is considerable evidence that unofficial payments are deeply embedded in the markets for health care in transition countries. Numerous surveys indicate that these payments provide a significant but possibly distorting contribution to health care financing. Unofficial payments can be characterised into three groups: cost contributions, including supplies and salaries, misuse of market position and payments for additional services. There is evidence from across the region on the presence of payment in each category although it is often difficult to distinguish between payment types. Regulatory policy must address a number of issues. Imposing penalties may help to reduce some payments but if the system is simply unable to provide services, such sanctions will drive workers into the private sector. There appears to be some support for formalising payments in order to reduce unofficial charges although the impact must be monitored and the danger is that formal fees add to the burden of payment. Regulation might also attempt to increase the amount of competition, provide information on good performing facilities and develop the legal basis of patient rights. Ultimately, unless governments address the endemic nature of payments across all sectors, policy interventions are unlikely to be fully effective.

Suggested Citation

  • Ensor, Tim, 2004. "Informal payments for health care in transition economies," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 237-246, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:58:y:2004:i:2:p:237-246
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