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Rationing of health care: is there an economic rationality to it?

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  • Peter Zweifel

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Abstract

The point of departure of this Editorial is the fact that we all are engaged in self-rationing in our everyday lives. We would like to spend more money on all sorts of nice things and devote more time to our cherished activities. Imposed rationing is characteristic of wartime governments, who seek to prevent the rich from gobbling up the resources left by the army. Since the publication in 1987 of David Callahan’s Setting Limits: Medical Goals in an Aging Society (Callahan, Setting limits: medical goals in an aging society, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1987 ), rationing of health care has become a widely debated issue (the Internet is full of pertinent entries). While rationing has also been addressed by health economists, there are three puzzling observations. First, Callahan (Callahan, Setting limits: medical goals in an aging society, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1987 ) wrote for an American audience whereas rationing was introduced by the British National Health Service (NHS) well before 1987, with little debate. Second, the economic theory of rationing had been laid out by James Tobin [Ectrica 20(4): 521–533, 1952 ] as early as 1952—but health economists seem to have neglected his groundwork when writing about rationing. Third, they accept government-imposed rationing as inevitable in the case of health care, as though the self-rationing alternative was unavailable. An attempt is made here to provide rational explanations for these puzzles. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Zweifel, 2015. "Rationing of health care: is there an economic rationality to it?," The European Journal of Health Economics, Springer;Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gesundheitsökonomie (DGGÖ), vol. 16(8), pages 797-800, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:eujhec:v:16:y:2015:i:8:p:797-800
    DOI: 10.1007/s10198-015-0689-6
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    1. repec:ohe:monogr:000443 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Friedrich Breyer, 2013. "Implicit Versus Explicit Rationing of Health Services," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 11(1), pages 07-15, 04.
    3. Felder, Stefan & Werblow, Andreas & Zweifel, Peter, 2010. "Do red herrings swim in circles? Controlling for the endogeneity of time to death," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 205-212, March.
    4. Joseph P. Newhouse, 1992. "Medical Care Costs: How Much Welfare Loss?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 3-21, Summer.
    5. Manning, Willard G. & Marquis, M. Susan, 1996. "Health insurance: The tradeoff between risk pooling and moral hazard," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 609-639, October.
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    1. repec:kap:ijhcfe:v:17:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s10754-016-9209-1 is not listed on IDEAS

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