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International comparisons of health expenditure: Theory, data and econometric analysis

In: Handbook of Health Economics


  • Gerdtham, Ulf-G.
  • Jonsson, Bengt


Comparisons of aggregate health expenditure across different countries have become popular over the last three decades as they permit a systematic investigation of the impact of different institutional regimes and other explanatory variables. Over the years, several regression analyses based on cross-section and panel data have been used to explain the international differences in health expenditure. A common result of these studies is that aggregate income appears to be the most important factor explaining health expenditure variation between countries and that the size of the estimated income elasticity is high and even higher than unity which in that case indicates that health care is a "luxury" good. Additional results indicates, for example, that the use of primary care "gatekeepers" lowers health expenditure and also that the way of remunerating physicians in the ambulatory care sector appears to influence health expenditure; capitation systems tend to lead to lower expenditure than fee-for-service systems. Finally, we also list some issues for the future. We demand more efforts on theory of the macroeconomic analysis of health expenditure, which is underdeveloped at least relative to the macroeconometrics of health expenditure. We also demand more replications based on updated data and methods that seeks to unify the many differing results of previous Studies.

Suggested Citation

  • Gerdtham, Ulf-G. & Jonsson, Bengt, 2000. "International comparisons of health expenditure: Theory, data and econometric analysis," Handbook of Health Economics, in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 11-53, Elsevier.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:heachp:1-01

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    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health


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