equity in pharmaceutical utilization in ontario: a cross-section and over time analysis

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  • Canadian Public Policy

    Equity in Pharmaceutical Utilization in Ontario: A Cross-Section and Over Time AnalysisAuthor(s): Hai ZhongSource: Canadian Public Policy / Analyse de Politiques, Vol. 33, No. 4 (Dec., 2007), pp. 487-507Published by: University of Toronto Press on behalf of Canadian Public PolicyStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30032553 .Accessed: 16/06/2014 14:24

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  • Equity in Pharmaceutical Utilization

    in Ontario: A Cross-Section and

    Over Time Analysis

    HAl ZHONG Economic Policy Research Institute Department of Economics and Department of Political Science University of Western Ontario, London and China Academy of Public Finance and Public Policy Central University of Finance and Economics Beijing, China

    Cette etude se penche sur l'in6galit6 et l'iniquit6 que l'on peut observer dans l'utilisation de m6dicaments en Ontario. Premierement, j'analyse cette in6galit6 et cette iniquit6 en comparant deux groupes, les personnes ag6es et le reste de la population ontarienne, i trois moments : en 1990, en 1996-1997 et en 2000-2001. Pendant toute cette p6riode, les personnes Ag6es 6taient couvertes par le Programme de m6dicaments de l'Ontario (ODB), finance par le gouvernement; mais ce n'6tait pas le cas du reste de la population. Deuxiemement, j'analyse les variations dans le temps de l'in6galit6 et l'iniquit6 que l'on peut observer dans chaque groupe. ltant donn6 que, durant la periode 6tudiee, des changements, dont le partage des frais, ont 6t6 apport6s au Programme, nous pouvons d6terminer l'influence de ceux-ci sur l'6galit6 et l'6quit6 des politiques de couverture en matiere de m6dicaments.

    Mots cles : iniquit6, in6galit6, m6dicaments, indice de concentration, Ontario

    This study investigates inequality and inequity in pharmaceutical utilization in Ontario. First, I compare inequality and inequity in drug use between the senior and non-senior population of Ontario at three points in time: 1990, 1996/97, and 2000/01. During this period, all seniors were universally covered by the publicly financed Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) program. This was not the case for the non-senior population. Second, I examine the changes in inequality and inequity for both population groups at each of the three time points. Cost-sharing and other changes were introduced into the ODB in this period, which allows us to identify the influence on equity of changes in drug coverage policies.

    Keywords: inequity, inequality, pharmaceuticals, concentration index, Ontario

    CANADIAN PUBLIC POLICY - ANALYSE DE POLITIQUES, VOL. XXXIII, NO. 4 2007

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  • 488 Hai Zhong

    INTRODUCTION

    Most developed countries regard equity in health care access as a crucial element of

    health system performance. Canada has achieved universal, first-dollar coverage' for its population for a comprehensive package of medically neces- sary physician and hospital services. However, even under public and universal coverage, the patterns of equity in the utilization of these services vary. For general practitioner and hospital services, most studies have found little or no evidence of inequity in access; variations in utilization occur mainly ac- cording to need (Eyles, Birch, and Newbold 1995; Newbold, Eyles, and Birch 1995; Van Doorslaer and Wagstaff 1992; Van Doorslaer, Koolman, and Puffer 2002; Van Doorslaer, Masseria, and OECD Health Equity Research Group 2004). For specialist services, however, a number of studies have found evidence of inequity in access; variations in utiliza- tion reflect the strong influence of non-need factors such as income and education (Alter et al. 1999; Van Doorslaer et al. 2002; Van Doorslaer et al. 2004).

    Pharmaceutical insurance in out-of-hospital set- tings is neither universal nor comprehensive within the public health insurance system in Canada. Cur- rently, coverage for prescription drugs in Canada is offered through a mixture of public and private in- surance plans. In 2000, 53 percent of Canadians were covered by public drug plans, 58 percent were covered by private drug plans, 13 percent were covered by both private and public drug plans, and 2 percent of the population had no form of drug coverage (Fraser Group and Tristat Resources 2002).

    The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI 2005a) estimates that expenditure on pre- scribed drugs accounted for 82.5 percent of total drug expenditure in Canada in 2004. Non-prescribed drugs are paid for mainly by individual out-of- pocket expenditure. For prescribed drugs, the expenditures are shared by public drug insurance plans, private drug insurance plans, and individual out-of-pocket payment. In 2002, the public share of

    spending on prescription drugs was 46.4 percent, private insurers spent 33.8 percent, and patients spent 19.8 percent.

    Variation in drug coverage among the Canadian population may lead to inequity in access to needed medications. Although a few studies have considered the distributional effects of public drug subsidies (Alan et al. 2002, 2005), no study has evaluated overall equity in drug utilization. However, we need to investigate equity in drug utilization because pre- scribed drug utilization has become a more and more important component of health care services world- wide. In Canada, per capita prescribed drug expenditure rose from $119 in 1975 to $562 in 2004,2 and expenditure on prescribed drugs as a proportion of total health expenditure increased from 6.3 percent to 13.8 percent (CIHI 2005b). Prescribed drug expenditure has risen at a more rapid rate than any other health care expenditure (CIHI 2005a). Moreover, as drugs are used increasingly as the therapy of choice for many conditions, their poten- tial applications to improve health are expanding rapidly. Because equity in health care access is the goal of most health care systems, when the impor- tance of drug use as a component of health care services goes up, equity in drug utilization becomes increasingly important for overall system performance.

    This study investigates income-related equality and equity in pharmaceutical utilization in Ontario and the influence of public drug insurance on this equality and equity. The fundamental difference between inequality and inequity resides in the fact that inequity represents inequality that is considered unjust and avoidable. As a result, measuring inequal- ity in pharmaceutical utilization represents the first step toward the identification of inequity in phar- maceutical utilization. This is a two-dimensional study, both cross-sectional and over time, and also across population groups. First, I compare income- related equality and equity in drug use between the senior and non-senior population in Ontario at three points in time: 1990, 1996/97, and 2000/01. During this period, all seniors in Ontario were universally

    CANADIAN PUBLIC POLICY - ANALYSE DE POLITIQUES, VOL. XXXIII, NO. 4 2007

    This content downloaded from 185.44.78.113 on Mon, 16 Jun 2014 14:24:50 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

    http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

  • Equity in Pharmaceutical Utilization in Ontario 489

    covered by the publicly financed Ontario Drug Ben- efit (ODB) program. This was not the case for the non-senior population. This difference in coverage provides an opportunity to examine the impact of universal drug coverage on income-related equality and equity in drug utilization. Second, I examine the changes in income-related equality and equity for both population groups at each of the three time points. Cost-sharing and other changes introduced into the ODB during this period allow us to identify the influence of income-related equality and equity on changes in drug coverage policies.

    The analysis proceeds as follows. First, for each time point, I identify whether there exists income- related inequality in observed drug utilization for each population group. Inequality here refers to the degree to which the individuals in an income distribution have shares of drug utilization that are unequal in quantity. Secondly, I measure income-related inequity in drug use. Equity here refers to horizontal equity, namely, access to drugs by all people on the basis of need. When the term access is used in most empirical studies, it is usually defined as "receipt of treatment." Although access to treatment and receipt of treatment may not be the same thing (the former refers to the opportuni- ties open to people, while the latter refers to the re

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