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Equity in health, health care services use and health care financing in British Columbia, 1992 and 2002

Published: April 1, 2006
Category: Reports
Author: McGrail KM
Country: Canada
Language: null
Type: Care Management
Settings: Academic, Hospital

Vancouver, BC, Canada: University of British Columbia (doctoral dissertation).

University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

The objectives of this thesis are to identify equity objectives in the stated intentions of the  health care system in British Columbia, and then to assess the extent to which the system appears  to be meeting those objectives.

The primary equity principle that emerges through an historical review of legislation and  policy documents is the intent to deliver hospital and physician services based on need rather  than ability to pay. A principle of equity that is equally important but gets much less attention is  a separation between contributions to financing and the use of physician and hospital services.  More contentious is how that financing should be shared across income groups.

An analysis of health status, health care services use and health care financing in British  Columbia in 1992 and 2002 shows that, as expected, health status increases with increasing  income. Health care services are largely provided according to need, though the use of surgical  day care services became more likely among higher income groups over that decade. In contrast,  admission to an acute inpatient facility is more likely for lower-income individuals; lower  income groups also use more inpatient acute services, on average, once admitted.

Financing for the physician and hospital sectors in B.C. comes from general tax revenues.  There were many changes in taxes during this decade; nevertheless, contributions to health care  financing were distributed across income groups in about the same way in 1992 and 2002. The  analyses here show the tax system is only mildly progressive, meaning that higher income  groups contribute only a slightly higher proportion of income to taxes. This finding is at odds  with the perception of the general public, which appears to believe that physician and hospital  services are (and should be) financed through progressive taxation, more like what is seen with  income taxes.

Further changes in the physician and hospital sectors and in the health care system overall  have the potential to erode equity currently in the system. If there is a commitment to principles  of equity, better measures and more monitoring of achievements will be important as these  changes continue.

Resource Use,Equity Evaluation,Practice Patterns Comparison,Canada

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