Gelormino, E. and Bambra, C. and Spadea, T. and Bellini, S. and Costa, G. (2011) 'The effects of health care reforms on health inequalities : a review and analysis of the European evidence base.', International journal of health services., 41 (2). pp. 209-230.
Health care is widely considered to be an important determinant of health. The health care systems of Western Europe have recently experienced significant reforms, under pressure from economic globalization. Similarly, in Eastern Europe, health care reforms have been undertaken in response to the demands of the new market economy. Both of these changes may influence equality in health outcomes. This article aims to identify the mechanisms through which health care may affect inequalities. The authors conducted a literature review of the effects on health inequalities of European health care reforms. Particular reference was paid to interventions in the fields of financing and pooling, allocation, purchasing, and provision of services. The majority of studies were from Western Europe, and the outcomes most often examined were access to services or income distribution. Overall, the quality of research was poor, confirming the need to develop an appropriate impact assessment methodology. Few studies were related to pooling, allocation, or purchasing. For financing and purchasing, the studies showed that publicly funded universal health care reduces the impact of ill health on income distribution, while insurance systems can increase inequalities in access to care. Out-of-pocket payments increase inequalities in access to care and contribute to impoverishment. Decentralizing health services can lead to geographic inequalities in health care access. Nationalized, publicly funded health care systems are most effective at reducing inequalities in access and reducing the effects on health of income distribution.
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