European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies

Brussels, Belgium

European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies

Brussels, Belgium
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Hernandez-Quevedo C.,European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies
Health Policy | Year: 2012

We argue that policy analysis aiming at curving inequalities in health calls for a better understanding of what we know about its measurement pathways. Assuming that health is a good that individuals trade off against other goods, unavoidable health inequalities result when after controlling for unavoidable factors (e.g., age and gender), differences in socioeconomic status of an individual systemically engender differences in health outcomes. However, the measurement of such inequality and underpinning reasons behind are not suggestive of a clear picture. In reviewing the literature, we conclude that it is unclear what the evidence suggests about the reasons for health inequalities as well as the best possible instruments to measure both inequality and socioeconomic health gradients. We provide an evaluation of the different sources of health inequity and we draw upon measurement issues and their policy significance. © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.

Ringard A.,Norwegian Knowledge Center for the Health Services | Sagan A.,European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies | Sperre Saunes I.,Norwegian Knowledge Center for the Health Services | Lindahl A.K.,Norwegian Knowledge Center for the Health Services
Health systems in transition | Year: 2013

Norways five million inhabitants are spread over nearly four hundred thousand square kilometres, making it one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe. It has enjoyed several decades of high growth, following the start of oil production in early 1970s, and is now one of the richest countries per head in the world. Overall, Norways population enjoys good health status; life expectancy of 81.53 years is above the EU average of 80.14, and the gap between overall life expectancy and healthy life years is around half the of EU average. The health care system is semi decentralized. The responsibility for specialist care lies with the state (administered by four Regional Health Authorities) and the municipalities are responsible for primary care. Although health care expenditure is only 9.4% of Norways GDP (placing it on the 16th place in the WHO European region), given Norways very high value of GDP per capita, its health expenditure per head is higher than in most countries. Public sources account for over 85% of total health expenditure; the majority of private health financing comes from households out-of-pocket payments.The number of practitioners in most health personnel groups, including physicians and nurses, has been increasing in the last few decades and the number of health care personnel per 100 000 inhabitants is high compared to other EU countries. However, long waiting times for elective care continue to be a problem and are cause of dissatisfaction among the patients. The focus of health care reforms has seen shifts over the past four decades. During the 1970s the focus was on equality and increasing geographical access to health care services; during the 1980s reforms aimed at achieving cost containment and decentralizing health care services; during the 1990s the focus was on efficiency. Since the beginning of the millennium the emphasis has been given to structural changes in the delivery and organization of health care and to policies intended to empower patients and users. The past few years have seen efforts to improve coordination between health care providers, as well as an increased attention towards quality of care and patient safety issues. Overall, comparing mortality rates amenable to medical intervention suggests that Norway is among the better performing European countries. Despite having one of the highest densities of physicians in Europe, though, Norway still struggles to ensure geographical and social equity in access to health care. World Health Organization 2013 (acting as the host organization for, and secretariat of, the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies).

Reeves A.,University of Oxford | Basu S.,Stanford University | McKee M.,European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies | Stuckler D.,University of Oxford | And 2 more authors.
The Lancet Infectious Diseases | Year: 2014

Background: WHO stresses the need to act on the social determinants of tuberculosis. We tested whether alternative social protection programmes have affected tuberculosis case notifications, prevalence, and mortality, and case detection and treatment success rates in 21 European countries from 1995 to 2012. Methods: We obtained tuberculosis case notification data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control's 2014 European Surveillance System database. We also obtained data for case detection, treatment success, prevalence, and mortality rates from WHO's 2014 tuberculosis database. We extracted data for 21 countries between Jan 1, 1995, and Dec 31, 2012. Social protection data were from EuroStat, 2014 edition. We used multivariate cross-national statistical models to quantify the association of differing types of social protection programmes with tuberculosis outcomes. All analyses were prespecified. Findings: After we controlled for economic output, public health spending, and country fixed effects, each US$100 increase in social protection spending was associated with a decrease per 100 000 population in the number of tuberculosis case notifications of -1·53% (95% CI -0·28 to -2·79; p=0·0191), estimated incidence rates of -1·70% (-0·30 to -3·11; p=0·0201), non-HIV-related tuberculosis mortality rate of -2·74% (-0·66 to -4·82; p=0·0125), and all-cause tuberculosis mortality rate of -3·08% (-0·73 to -5·43; p=0·0127). We noted no relation between increased social spending and tuberculosis prevalence (-1·50% [-3·10 to 0·10] per increase of $100; p=0·0639) or smear-positive treatment success rates (-0·079% [-0·18 to 0·34] per increase of $100; p=0·5235) or case detection (-0·59% [-1·31 to 0·14] per increase of $100; p=0·1066). Old age pension expenditure seemed to have the strongest association with reductions in tuberculosis case notification rates for those aged 65 years or older (-3·87% [-0·95 to -6·78]; p=0·0137). Interpretation: Investment in social protection programmes are likely to provide an effective complement to tuberculosis prevention and treatment programmes, especially for vulnerable groups. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Glinos I.A.,European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies | Baeten R.,European Social Observatory
Social Science and Medicine | Year: 2014

Despite being a niche phenomenon, cross-border health care collaboration receives a lot of attention in the EU and figures visibly on the policy agenda, in particular since the policy process which eventually led to the adoption of Directive 2011/24/EU. One of the underlying assumptions is that cross-border collaboration is desirable, providing justification to both the European Commission and to border-region stakeholders for promoting it. The purpose of this paper is to question this assumption and to examine the role of actors in pushing (or not) for cross-border collaboration. The analysis takes place in two parts. First, the EU policies to promote cross-border collaboration and the tools employed are examined, namely (a) use of European funds to sponsor concrete border-region collaboration projects, (b) use of European funds to sponsor research which gives visibility to cross-border collaboration, and (c) use of the European Commission's newly acquired legal mandate to encourage "Member States to cooperate in cross-border health care provision in border-regions" (Art. 10) and support "Member States in the development of European reference networks between health care providers and centres of expertise" (Art. 12). Second, evidence gathered in 2011-2013 from seven European border-regions on hospital cross-border collaboration is systematically reviewed to assess the reality of cross-border collaboration - can it work and when, and why do actors engage in cross-border collaboration? The preliminary findings suggest that while the EU plays a prominent role in some border-region initiatives, cross-border collaboration needs such a specific set of circumstances to work that it is questionable whether it can effectively be promoted. Moreover, local actors make use of the EU (as a source of funding, legislation or legitimisation) to serve their needs. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Kentikelenis A.,King's College | Karanikolos M.,London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine | Karanikolos M.,European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies | Reeves A.,University of Oxford | And 4 more authors.
The Lancet | Year: 2014

Greece's economic crisis has deepened since it was bailed out by the international community in 2010. The country underwent the sixth consecutive year of economic contraction in 2013, with its economy shrinking by 20% between 2008 and 2012, and anaemic or no growth projected for 2014. Unemployment has more than tripled, from 7·7% in 2008 to 24·3% in 2012, and long-term unemployment reached 14·4%. We review the background to the crisis, assess how austerity measures have affected the health of the Greek population and their access to public health services, and examine the political response to the mounting evidence of a Greek public health tragedy.

Gene-Badia J.,University of Barcelona | Gallo P.,University of Barcelona | Hernandez-Quevedo C.,European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies | Garcia-Armesto S.,Instituto Aragones Ciencias Of La Salud
Health Policy | Year: 2012

The purpose of this paper is to convey the specific health care actions and policies undertaken by the Spanish government, as well as by regional governments, as a result of the economic crisis. Throughout the last two years we have witnessed a number of actions in areas such as human capital, activity and processes, outsourcing and investment that, poorly coordinated, have shaped the nature of financial cuts on public services. This paper discloses the size and magnitude of these actions, the main actors involved and the major consequences for the health sector, citizens and patients.We further argue that there are a number of factors which have been neglected in the discourse and in the actions undertaken. First, the crisis situation is not being used as an opportunity for major reforms in the health care system. Further, the lay public and professionals have remained as observers in the process, with little to no participation at any point. Moreover, there is a general perception that the solution to the Spanish situation is either the proposed health care cuts or an increase in cost sharing for services which neglects alternative and/or complementary measures. Finally, there is a complete absence of any scientific component in the discourse and in the policies proposed. © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.

Van Ginneken E.,Health Management Technology | Van Ginneken E.,European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies | Swartz K.,Harvard University | Van der Wees P.,Radboud University Nijmegen
Health Affairs | Year: 2013

Since the 1990s some European countries have had regulated health insurance exchanges or have incorporated elements of exchange markets into their health systems. Health reforms in Switzerland and the Netherlands in 1996 and 2006, respectively, created managed competition in the countries' health insurance markets, which are somewhat analogous to the US state and federally operated health insurance exchanges scheduled to begin operations in 2013 under the Affordable Care Act. We review the Swiss and Dutch experience with exchanges and offer specific lessons for the US exchanges. First, risk-adjustment mechanisms-which provide premium adjustments intended to compensate health plans for enrolling people expected to have high medical costs-need to be sophisticated and continually updated. Second, it is important to determine why people eligible for coverage don't enroll and to craft responses that will overcome enrollment barriers. Third, applying for subsidies must be simple. Fourth, insurers will need bargaining power similar to that of providers to create a level playing field for negotiating about prices and quality of services, and interim cost containment measures may be necessary. Fifth and finally, insurers and consumers alike will need meaningful information about providers' costs and quality of care so they can become prudent purchasers of health services, since managed competition among health plans by itself will not substantially drive down health costs. © 2013 Project HOPE-The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc.

Sagan A.,European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies
Health systems in transition | Year: 2011

Since the successful transition to a freely elected parliament and a market economy after 1989, Poland is now a stable democracy and is well represented within political and economic organizations in Europe and worldwide. The strongly centralized health system based on the Semashko model was replaced with a decentralized system of mandatory health insurance, complemented with financing from state and territorial self-government budgets. There is a clear separation of health care financing and provision: the National Health Fund (NFZ) the sole payer in the system is in charge of health care financing and contracts with public and non-public health care providers. The Ministry of Health is the key policy-maker and regulator in the system and is supported by a number of advisory bodies, some of them recently established. Health insurance contributions, borne entirely by employees, are collected by intermediary institutions and are pooled by the NFZ and distributed between the 16 regional NFZ branches. In 2009, Poland spent 7.4% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health. Around 70% of health expenditure came from public sources and over 83.5% of this expenditure can be attributed to the (near) universal health insurance. The relatively high share of private expenditure is mostly represented by out-of-pocket (OOP) payments, mainly in the form of co-payments and informal payments. Voluntary health insurance (VHI) does not play an important role and is largely limited to medical subscription packages offered by employers. Compulsory health insurance covers 98% of the population and guarantees access to a broad range of health services. However, the limited financial resources of the NFZ mean that broad entitlements guaranteed on paper are not always available. Health care financing is overall at most proportional: while financing from health care contributions is proportional and budgetary subsidies to system funding are progressive, high OOP expenditures, particularly in areas such as pharmaceuticals, are highly regressive. The health status of the Polish population has improved substantially, with average life expectancy at birth reaching 80.2 years for women and 71.6 years for men in 2009. However, there is still a vast gap in life expectancy between Poland and the western European Union (EU) countries and between life expectancy overall and the expected number of years without illness or disability. Given its modest financial, human and material health care resources and the corresponding outcomes, the overall financial efficiency of the Polish system is satisfactory. Both allocative and technical efficiency leave room for improvement. Several measures, such as prioritizing primary care and adopting new payment mechanisms such as diagnosis-related groups (DRGs), have been introduced in recent years but need to be expanded to other areas and intensified. Additionally, numerous initiatives to enhance quality control and build the required expertise and evidence base for the system are also in place. These could improve general satisfaction with the system, which is not particularly high. Limited resources, a general aversion to cost-sharing stemming from a long experience with broad public coverage and shortages in health workforce need to be addressed before better outcomes can be achieved by the system. Increased cooperation between various bodies within the health and social care sectors would also contribute in this direction. The HiT profiles are country-based reports that provide a detailed description of a health system and of policy initiatives in progress or under development. HiTs examine different approaches to the organization, financing and delivery of health services, and the role of the main actors in health systems; they describe the institutional framework, process, content and implementation of health and health care policies; and highlight challenges and areas that require more in-depth analysis. World Health Organization 2011, on behalf of the European Observatory on health systems and Policies.

Glinos I.A.,European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies
Health Policy | Year: 2015

The WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel is a landmark in the health workforce migration debate. Yet its principles apply only partly within the European Union (EU) where freedom of movement prevails. The purpose of this article is to explore whether free mobility of health professionals contributes to "equitably strengthen health systems" in the EU. The article proposes an analytical tool (matrix), which looks at the effects of health professional mobility in terms of efficiency and equity implications at three levels: for the EU, for destination countries and for source countries. The findings show that destinations as well as sources experience positive and negative effects, and that the effects of mobility are complex because they change, overlap and are hard to pin down. The analysis suggests that there is a risk that free health workforce mobility disproportionally benefits wealthier Member States at the expense of less advantaged EU Member States, and that mobility may feed disparities as flows redistribute resources from poorer to wealthier EU countries. The article argues that the principles put forward by the WHO Code appear to be as relevant within the EU as they are globally. © 2015.

Richardson E.,European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies
Health systems in transition | Year: 2013

This analysis of the Armenian health system reviews the developments in organization and governance, health financing, healthcare provision, health reforms and health system performance since 2006. Armenia inherited a Semashko style health system on independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Initial severe economic and sociopolitical difficulties during the 1990s affected the population health, though strong economic growth from 2000 benefited the populations health. Nevertheless, the Armenian health system remains unduly tilted towards inpatient care concentrated in the capital city despite overall reductions in hospital beds and concerted efforts to reform primary care provision. Changes in health system financing since independence have been more profound, as out-of-pocket (OOP) payments now account for over half of total health expenditure. This reduces access to essential services for the poorest households - particularly for inpatient care and pharmaceuticals - and many households face catastrophic health expenditure. Improving health system performance and financial equity are therefore the key challenges for health system reform. The scaling up of some successful recent programmes for maternal and child health may offer solutions, but require sustained financial resources that will be challenging in the context of financial austerity and the low base of public financing. World Health Organization 2013 (acting as the host organization for, and secretariat of, the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies).

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