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cover page image Horizontal equity in health care utilization - evidence from three high-income Asian economies.

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Lu, Jui-fen Rachel, Gabriel M. Leung, Soonman Kwon, Keith YK Tin et al
1 Mar 2007 | 14 pages

Abstract: This paper compares the extent to which the principle of ‘‘equal treatment for equal need’’(ETEN) is maintained in the health care delivery systems of Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan. Deviations in the degree to which health care is distributed according to need are measured by an index of horizontal inequity. Income related inequality in utilization is split into four major sources: (i) direct effect of income (ii) need indicators (self-assessed health status, activity limitation, and age and gender interaction terms) (iii) non-need variables (education, work status, private health insurance coverage, employer-provided medical benefits, Medicaid status (low-income medical assistance), geographic region and urban/rural residency and (iv) a residual term. Service types studied include western doctor, licensed traditional medicine practitioner (LTMP), dental and emergency room (ER) visits, as well as inpatient admissions. Violations of the ETEN principle are observed for physician and dental services in Hong Kong . There is pro-rich inequity in western doctor visits. Unusually, this inequity exists for general practitioner but not specialist care. In contrast, South Korea appears to have almost comprehensively maintained ETEN although the better-off have preferential access to higher levels of outpatient care. Taiwan shows intermediate results in that the rich are marginally more likely to use outpatient services, but quantities of western doctor and dental visits are evenly distributed while there is modest pro-rich bias in the number of LTMP episodes. ER visits and inpatient admissions in Taiwan are either proportional or slightly pro-poor. Future work should focus on theevaluation of policy interventions aimed at reducing the observed unequal distributions.