- Chile has experienced great success in terms of economic growth in the last decades. This growing economy brings changes in the Chilean health care system. Its health care system was primarily funded by state sources until 1981, when a major reform was introduced that established new rules for the health insurance market. Since then, Chile has a public-private mixed health care system, both in financing and delivery of services. Citizens can choose for coverage between the Public National Health Insurance and the Private Health Insurance system. However, these systems have a common funding source coming from the mandatory contribution of employees, equivalent to 7% of their taxable income with an approximate limit of US$2,800 dollars. One of the more important Chilean health reforms towards the establishment of social guarantees was effective on July 2005, when the Regime of Explicit Health Guarantees, also known as Plan AUGE became effective. Plan AUGE is a health program that benefits all Chileans without discrimination of age, gender, economic status, health care, or place of residence. This plan includes the 69 diseases with higher impact on Chilean population in its different stages, but with feasibility of effective treatments. Changes in the health care system and its last reform brought questions about their impact on the distribution of health care services throughout country. Is Chile moving towards a better and more equitable health care system?
The main purpose of this thesis is to investigate equity in health system finance and health care utilization as well as to explore alternative measurement of access to health care in Chile. The first two manuscripts examine equity issues in Chile. The purpose of the first one is to assess equity in health system finance in Chile, accounting for all finance sources. While equity in health system finance has been well studied in OECD countries, there are still few published empirical studies on Latin American health care systems, where there tends to be a wider gap in income-wealth distribution among states. This gap may increase the financial burden for people in the lower spectrum of income groups, which is the main concern in the first manuscript. It will focus on identifying policy variables that may contribute to more equitable distribution of the financial burden in health care. The equity principle we adopt for this study is the ability to pay principle. Based on this, we explore factors that contribute to inequities in the health care system finance and issues about who bears the heavier burden of out-of pocket (OOP) payment, progressivity of OOP payment, and the redistributive effect of OOP payment for health care as a source of finance in the Chilean health care system. Our analysis is based on data from the National Socioeconomic Survey (CASEN), and the 2006 National Survey on Satisfaction and OOP payments. Results from this study provide comprehensive understanding of the financial burden of health care in Chile. This study identified evidence of inequity, in spite of the progressivity of the health care system. Furthermore, our assessment of equity in health system finance identified relevant policy variables such as education, insurance system, and method of payment that should be taken into consideration in the ongoing debates and research in improving the Chilean system. Such findings will also benefit other Latin American countries that are concerned about equity in health system finance.
The purpose of the second manuscript was to assess equity in health care utilization in Chile. Secondary data analyses from the National Socioeconomic Survey (CASEN) were performed to estimate the impact of different factors including AUGE in the utilization of health care services. We used a two-part model for the analysis of frequency of health care use in the country. Four other separate two-part models were also specified to estimate the frequency of use of preventive services, general practitioner services, specialty care and emergency care. An assessment of horizontal equity was also included. Results suggest the presence of pro-rich inequities in the use of medical care. The estimation of the two-part model found key factors affecting utilization of health care services such as education and the implementation of the AUGE program. These findings provide timely evidence to policy-makers to understand the current distribution and equity of health care utilization, and to strengthen availability of health services accordingly.
The third manuscript was motivated by the previous findings. Its purpose was to explore an alternative measurement for health care access. The majority of studies nowadays use a single proxy to estimate access: the use of health care services. However, we saw many limitations on this approach since it only considers people that are already using the system and ignores those that are not. The final manuscript proposed a model to estimate access to health care services based on communitarian claims. The model identified barriers to health care access as well as the preferences of the community for priority settings.