The Sustainability of Health Care Systems in Europe: Volume 295

Cover of The Sustainability of Health Care Systems in Europe
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Table of contents

(15 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-vii
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Abstract

This chapter summarises the role of EU actions in supporting healthcare policies in the EU Member States, both looking at implemented actions and describing current priorities for the future. It argues that these coordinated actions can be beneficial for EU Member States by helping them to avoid duplication of effort and to attain economies of scale. Moreover, data sharing with proper safeguards can unleash vast amount of ‘learning what works’ both for medical treatments and for healthcare sustainability measures. The need for this common learning appears ever more urgent while facing the health and economic consequences of the present pandemic.

Abstract

We exploit the international comparability and the longitudinal dimension of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe to look at regional and cohort differences in disease prevalence across European regions. We find a significantly higher probability of reporting cardiovascular diseases among older Eastern European women than among other Europeans. Moreover, we observe a worsening in health conditions for younger cohorts.

Abstract

Purpose: In this chapter, we examine the National Health Service (NHS) and Adult Social Care (ASC) in England, focussing on policies that have been introduced since 2000 and considering the challenges that providers face in their quest to provide a high standard and affordable health service in the near future.

Methodology/Approach: We discuss recent policy developments and published analysis covering innovations within major aspects of health care (primary, secondary and tertiary) and ASC, before considering future challenges faced by providers in England, highlighted by a 2017 UK Parliament Select Committee.

Findings: The NHS and ASC system have experienced tightening budgets and serious financial pressure, with historically low real-terms growth in health funding from central government and local authorities. Policymakers have tried to overcome these challenges with several policy innovations, but many still remain. With large-scale investment and reform, there is potential for the health and social care system to evolve into a modern service capable of dealing with the needs of an ageing population. However, if these challenges are not met, then it is set to continue struggling with a lack of appropriate facilities, an overstretched staff and a system not entirely appropriate for its patients.

Abstract

This chapter provides an assessment of the sustainability of Ireland's health care system. It starts by describing the historical development of the Irish system and identifying key features of the current system that raise potential challenges for sustainability. It then provides an analysis of recently compiled and up-to-date data on trends in health care expenditures. A number of specific demand and supply side challenges to sustainability are then described and discussed. This is followed by an examination of recent and current reforms to the health care system, focussing on their likely impact on sustainability, as well as a discussion of how health economics has and can inform policy, practice and debate. We also discuss the potential implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the Irish system.

Abstract

The Norwegian health care system is semi-decentralized. Primary care and long-term care (LTC) are the responsibilities of the municipalities. Specialist care is the responsibility of the central government and is organised through four Regional Health Authorities (RHA). Resource use, health outcomes and severity are the three main pillars for priority setting, regularly applied in reimbursement decisions for pharmaceuticals.

The sustainability of health care is challenged in Norway. The main factors are a growing elderly population with high need of complex, coordinated services, an increasing demand for newly approved drugs and advanced technology and a potential shortage of health care personnel.

We present recent trials and policy reforms in Norway aimed at improving care pathways combined with cost containment. Reforms in the pharmaceutical market, both with regard to market access and reimbursement (cost-effectiveness), and regulation of prices, have resulted in cost containment. The primary care sector awaits reform initiatives to recruit and retain physicians as general practitioners. No reform in the hospital sector has had cost containment as a main focus. The sector is characterized with low productivity growth, and expenditures that have increased more than the GDP growth. Waiting times are long, and coordination between sub-sectors of health care has been poor, although the Coordination reform of 2012 has alleviated some of the challenges related to intersectoral coordination. Still, the divided responsibility for health care between the central government and the municipalities creates tensions between national ambitions and local decisions in the financing and provision of health services.

Abstract

In this chapter, we focus on the major reforms intended to ensure the sustainability of health care in Denmark between 2000 and 2020 and the evidence for the effectiveness of these reforms. We take a broad definition of sustainability and include reforms that aimed to improve the productivity of the health care sector both in terms of increasing activity for the same set of inputs and in terms of improving the quality of care. A characterisation of the Danish health care system as having gone through evolution rather than revolution (Pedersen, Christiansen, & Bech, 2005) is, with one exception, still true today, and reforms have been relatively few. As we demonstrate there is a relative lack of formal evaluations of these reforms.

In the first decade of the period, the majority of new policy measures aimed to increase the quantity of care provided by the health care sector. With the introduction of diagnosis-related groups (DRGs) to measure hospital activity, a wave of reforms created a stronger link between activity and hospital reimbursement, and introduced additional incentives for increasing activity, alongside requirements for increased technical efficiency. A centralisation reform in 2007 reduced the number of administrative units and saw the beginning of a development that would also lead to fewer hospital units. Procurements of medicines were professionalised, and a national council was established to consider the use of expensive hospital medicine.

In the second-half of the period, policy makers began questioning whether increased activity was always for the better, and slowly began experimenting with initiatives that would shift the focus to the quality and appropriateness of care. As in many other countries, this move occurred in the light of a realisation of a shift in the demographic structure of the country and the change this was expected to create for the future demand for health care.

Although some empirical evidence exists, it is striking that few of the changes to the health care sector has been subject to formal academic evaluation – especially when considering the availability of high quality nationwide micro data. We point to a number of important lessons that could be drawn from the Danish experiences.

However, the greatest potential for research into the sustainability of health care in the Danish setting is probably still to be realised by taking advantage of the possibilities of linking micro data on individuals' health care utilisation, schooling outcomes and labour supply, with the possibility of following individuals across decades. For example, Danish micro data make it possible to follow newborns in 1990 until they reach adulthood and simultaneously follow their parents from adulthood until they reach 60 years of age where the prevalence of chronic diseases begins to show.

Abstract

As all countries in the world, Polish health care system has to challenge four fundamental transformations: demographic, technological, epidemiological and cultural. Each of them generates serious threats for the sustainability of the system. The Polish society is ageing even faster than other in the European Union. For the sustainability of the system, the ageing of the population is a double challenge: on the expenditure side and on the financing side.

The Polish health care system is characterised by three negative features: under-financing of health care, misguided organisation of the health sector and health care entities and a dramatic shortage of health care professionals. The share of GDP devoted to health has remained constant over the last years at the level of 6.3%–6.7%. Poland has one of the lowest rates of practicing doctors and nurses in the EU countries. Lack of attractiveness of the medical professions caused by consistently low wages has created a huge generation gap.

Looking from the perspective of cost-effectiveness, we must to state, that the system, with its small financial outlays, provides a relatively high level of health for the population. However, it does not mean that better results could not be achieved. The majority of the public hospitals run in the form of independent public health care units that are highly inefficient and indebted. All attempts to restructure the sector and to solve the problem of arrears of the public hospitals failed so far.

To face the challenges, Poland must change its health policy. An increase in the sector's financing is needed, bearing in mind that increasing outlays alone is certainly not enough to solve all problems and secure sustainability. Deep structural and organisational changes are necessary. Unfortunately, politicians avoid making difficult but necessary decisions, e.g., drastic restructuring of the hospital sector, preferring above all to increase public spending on health.

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Abstract

Over the last decades, the Czech health care system has undergone significant reforms. Regardless of its good performances in terms of health care spending and improved population's health, the sustainability and functionality of the Czech system still faces important challenges. It is particularly vulnerable to economic shocks and an ageing society; it suffers from inefficiencies in hospital management and experiences profound changes in the health workforce. To tackle these problems, policy makers have been working to reform the system, but these challenges have not yet been overcome. The present chapter provides an overview of selected reforms and their outcomes. First, we describe the main features of the health care system in the Czech Republic. Then, we discuss its main sustainability problems and the policy interventions that have been implemented to tackle these problems with a particular focus on evidence provided by the health economics literature on the actual effects of the reforms.

Abstract

We study the sustainability of the Austrian healthcare system. In the first part of the chapter, we provide background on the state of the Austrian healthcare sector. In the second part, we review major healthcare interventions that recently took place in Austria, discussing their effectiveness and implications for sustainability. In the third part, we address five public health challenges that are particularly interesting in the Austrian context: ageing, risky health behaviours, healthcare access in rural areas, refugees and infectious disease epidemics.

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Abstract

Purpose: This chapter describes the main features of the financing of health care expenditure in the French health care system.

Methodology/Approach: This chapter presents key reforms that have been implemented to make the health care system more sustainable in the main dimensions of care: ambulatory, hospital, pharmaceuticals and insurance coverage.

Findings: Overall, French public authorities have followed three paths to improve the sustainability of the health care system: reducing public expenses, generalising access to complementary health insurance and streamlining care toward the most disadvantaged individuals. Looking in the future, the sustainability of the French health care system will mainly rely on two areas of recommendations. The first area is to respect the national annual target for health insurance spending, with a focus on responsible prescriptions, optimised care pathways and increased use of primary and ambulatory care where possible. The second area is to increase efficiency on the short to medium terms. This includes an increased quality of the care toward patients with a disability or special needs, a clearer engagement of patients within their care pathways to increase treatment compliance, and more generally a search for coordinated care that is fair and appropriate.

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Abstract

This paper offers an overview of the defining traits of the Spanish National Health Service (Sistema Nacional de Salud, in Spanish), as well as an account of its current trends in both spending and organisational changes. Beyond a thorough description of the Spanish public health-care system and its main quantitative indicators, we offer a critical review of the ongoing decentralisation process of health-care provision and its recent trends in pharmaceutical spending.

The text is organised in the following two parts. Part 1 provides an overview of the Spanish health-care system, structured in several sections. It starts by placing Spain within a classification of international health-care systems and is followed by an account of the importance of public provision in the Spanish case. A relation of the guiding principles of the Spanish public system concludes the first part. The second part focuses on two key developments that have shaped the evolution of the Spanish health-care system in the recent decades. The first is the process of decentralisation of health-care; the section explains the challenges arising with the transference of health-care provision responsibilities from the central to regional governments. The second section critically reviews the recent expansion of drug-related spending in the Spanish health-care system, and the policy responses to attempt to contain health-care costs.

Abstract

The provision of universal health care by the Portuguese NHS depends on the allocated government budget to health. Several reforms have been implemented over the last decades to improve access while ensuring the financial sustainability of the health care system. However, a practical and useable definition of public health sustainability is hard to find. We show that under two alternative definitions – both related to fiscal space and compliance with sound public finances – public health spending increase is limited. Our analysis indicates that public health spending growth levels below 3% can be financially sustainable.

Taking into account that financial sustainability is a function of economic growth and will depend on the level of control of other public spending, our forecast for long-run health spending growth is compatible with the financial sustainability targets defined.

Abstract

With the spread of the coronavirus disease across over 100 countries and its status upgraded to that of a pandemic on 11 March 2020 (World Health Organization), increased attention is being placed on the policy measures that may be required to effectively curb the rate of contagion within and across countries. Currently, several governments, such as China, Italy, Spain, Japan and the Republic of Korea, have implemented emergency measures informed by the principle of social distancing to limit the spread of coronavirus (World Health Organization). Ever since the virus was first identified in Wuhan City in December 2019, this succession of uncoordinated policy responses offers a set of natural experiments that should be analysed to understand the successes and failures of containment at the societal level. In this analysis, we focus on the case of Italy, the hardest hit country in Europe (Dong, Du, & Gardner, 2020; World Health Organization). The objective of this short note is to provide an even-handed analysis of the actions taken by the Italian government to cope with the transmission of the virus and to highlight lessons in emergency management that can be learnt for other countries currently facing the onset of the Covid-19 epidemic.

Index

Pages 237-243
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Cover of The Sustainability of Health Care Systems in Europe
DOI
10.1108/S0573-85552021295
Publication date
2021-03-22
Book series
Contributions to Economic Analysis
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-83909-499-6
eISBN
978-1-83909-498-9
Book series ISSN
0573-8555