Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Income-Related Inequalities in Utilization of Health Services among Private Health Insurance Beneficiaries in Brazil
by Werneck, Heitor, Dr.P.H., The George Washington University, 2016, 97; 10145789
Abstract (Summary)

Background: Throughout the twentieth century, Brazil developed a Social Health Insurance, providing coverage to formal workers and their dependents. In 1988, the country implemented a health reform adopting a National Health Service model, based on three core principles, universal coverage, open-ended benefit package and striving for health equity. During this transition, formal workers recomposed their privileged access to healthcare through private health insurance, resulting in a two-tier system represented by those with dual coverage—public and private—and those who must rely exclusively on the public insurance. Private health insurance coverage has a positive correlation with income, however, between 1998 and 2008 private coverage expanded vigorously among the poor, while remained stable among the rich. The health equity literature in Brazil consistently reports the presence of relevant inequalities in utilization of health services favoring privately insured individuals. A gap in this literature, however, is to determine whether inequalities in utilization of health services remain among insured individuals, i.e., does private insurance improve access regardless of individuals’ income?

Methods: The study relies on Andersen’s behavioral model as a theoretical framework to analyze data from two rounds (1998 & 2008) of a national household survey, assessing levels of utilization of fourteen dependent variables across income quintiles and calculating concentration indexes as summary measures of inequality. Dependent variable distributions across income are standardized by need using the indirect method. Concentration curves compare the evolution of inequality during that time. Curve dominance is formally tested between survey years. Decomposition analysis identifies the most relevant contributors to inequality. Physician services are analyzed as the probability of having a physician visit and the number of physician visits. Hospital services are analyzed as the number of hospital admissions, the probability of having a hospitalization, and the number of hospital days during the last hospitalization. The latter two variables are broken down according to their financing source, either public (SUS) or private insurance.

Results: Physician services present very low inequalities, although a statistically significant positive gradient persists in both survey rounds. Poor PHI beneficiaries have an advantage compared to national levels. SUS financed hospitalizations are a rare phenomenon among privately insured individual but strongly concentrated on the poor. Poor PHI beneficiaries utilize private hospital at lower levels than the rich. Compared at a national level, they are at a disadvantage. In 1998, this was not the case, suggesting that insurers may be developing mechanisms to deter hospital utilization among the poor. Premium value and income are the most relevant contributors to inequality in physician and hospital services.

Conclusions: The Brazilian government (ANS) needs to monitor utilization levels across income and develop policies to increase accountability of PHI products particularly preventing insurers from purposefully pushing their beneficiaries to use SUS hospitals. Greater availability on insurance policies segmented as ambulatory care only and inpatient services only would increase the range of options for consumers that could sort more adequate coverage according to their capacity to pay and healthcare needs.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Pittman, Patricia
Commitee: Almeida, Gisele, Dor, Avi
School: The George Washington University
Department: Health Policy
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-B 77/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Public health, Public policy, Health care management
Keywords: Brazil, Equity in access, Health inequality, Health insurance, Health policy, Health systems, Income-related inequality
Publication Number: 10145789
ISBN: 978-1-369-01219-4
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