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Does Competition Improve Public Hospitals' Efficiency? Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment in the English National Health Service

  • Zack Cooper
  • Stephen Gibbons
  • Simon Jones
  • Alistair McGuire

This paper uses a difference-in-difference style estimation strategy to test separately the impact of competition from public sector and private sector hospitals on the efficiency of public hospitals. Our identification strategy takes advantage of the phased introduction of a recent set of substantive reforms introduced in the English NHS from 2006 onwards. These reforms forced public sector health care providers to compete with other public hospitals and eventually to face competition from existing private sector providers for care delivered to publicly funded patients. In this study, we measure efficiency using hospitals' average length of stay (LOS) for patients undergoing elective surgery. For a more nuanced assessment of efficiency, we break LOS down into its two key components: the time from patients' admission to the hospital until their surgery and the time from their surgery until their discharge. Here, pre-surgery LOS serves as a proxy for hospitals' lean efficiency. Our results suggest that competition between public providers prompted public hospitals to improve their productivity by decreasing their pre-surgery, overall and post-surgery length of stay. In contrast, competition from private hospitals did not spur public providers to improve their performance and instead left incumbent public providers with a more costly case mix of patients and led to increases in post-surgical LOS.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp1125.

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Date of creation: Feb 2012
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1125
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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  1. Martin Gaynor & Robert J Town, 2012. "Competition in Health Care Markets," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 12/282, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  2. Gaynor, Martin, 2007. "Competition and Quality in Health Care Markets," Foundations and Trends(R) in Microeconomics, now publishers, vol. 2(6), pages 441-508, February.
  3. Martin Gaynor & Rodrigo Moreno-Serra & Carol Propper, 2010. "Death by Market Power: Reform, Competition and Patient Outcomes in the National Health Service," NBER Working Papers 16164, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. David M. Cutler & Robert S. Huckman & Jonathan T. Kolstad, 2009. "Input Constraints and the Efficiency of Entry: Lessons from Cardiac Surgery," NBER Working Papers 15214, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Fenn, Paul & Davies, Philip, 1990. "Variations in length of stay : A conditional likelihood approach," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 223-234, September.
  6. Angrist, Joshua & Pischke, Jörn-Steffen, 2010. "The Credibility Revolution in Empirical Economics: How Better Research Design Is Taking the Con out of Econometrics," IZA Discussion Papers 4800, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Allen, Robin & Gertler, Paul J, 1991. "Regulation and the Provision of Quality to Heterogenous Consumers: The Case of Prospective Pricing of Medical Services," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 3(4), pages 361-75, December.
  8. Kolstad, Jonathan T. & Cutler, David M. & Huckman, Robert Steven, 2010. "Input Constraints and the Efficiency of Entry: Lessons from Cardiac Surgery," Scholarly Articles 5344226, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  9. Zack Cooper & Stephen Gibbons & Simon Jones & Alistair McGuire, 2011. "Does Hospital Competition Save Lives? Evidence From The English NHS Patient Choice Reforms," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(554), pages F228-F260, 08.
  10. Chalkley, M. & Malcomson, J.M., 1995. "Contracting for health services with unmonitored quality," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 9510, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
  11. David Meltzer & Jeanette Chung & Anirban Basu, 2002. "Does Competition under Medicare Prospective Payment Selectively Reduce Expenditures on High-Cost Patients?," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 33(3), pages 447-468, Autumn.
  12. Ellis, Randall P., 1998. "Creaming, skimping and dumping: provider competition on the intensive and extensive margins1," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 537-555, October.
  13. Cutler, D.M., 1992. "The Incidence of Adverse Medical Outcome Under Prospective Payment," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1603, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  14. Ellis, Randall P. & McGuire, Thomas G., 1986. "Provider behavior under prospective reimbursement : Cost sharing and supply," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 129-151, June.
  15. Barro, Jason R. & Huckman, Robert S. & Kessler, Daniel P., 2006. "The effects of cardiac specialty hospitals on the cost and quality of medical care," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 702-721, July.
  16. Martin, Stephen & Smith, Peter, 1996. "Explaining variations in inpatient length of stay in the National Health Service," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 279-304, June.
  17. Daniel P. Kessler & Mark B. McClellan, 2000. "Is Hospital Competition Socially Wasteful?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(2), pages 577-615, May.
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