Health Policy

Using Comparative Analysis to Address Health System Caricatures

Using Comparative Analysis to Address Health System Caricatures
International Journal of Health Services, Volume 44, Number 3, Pages 547–559, 2014. Baywood Publishing Co., Inc. doi:

Michael K. Gusmano, Victor G. Rodwin, and Daniel Weisz

To learn from health care systems abroad, we must move beyond simplistic characterizations and compare different systems with respect to salient performance measures. Despite findings from recent cross-national studies suggesting that many health care systems outperform the United States, claims by U.S. public officials often fail to acknowledge the actual accomplishments of health care systems abroad. We document significant variation among the United States and France, Germany, and England, which provide universal coverage, albeit in different ways. As previously documented, the United States has the highest rate of mortality amenable to health care. We extend this work by adding two indicators: (a) access to timely and effective primary care as measured by hospital discharges for avoidable hospital conditions; and (b) use of specialty services as indicated by coronary revascularization (bypass surgery and angioplasty), adjusted for the burden of coronary artery disease. Our findings indicate that: (a) the United States suffers the gravest consequences of financial barriers to primary care; (b) in all four countries, older people (65+) receive fewer revascularizations than their younger counterparts once we account for disease burden; and (c) in France, patients receive the most revascularizations, after adjusting for the burden of disease.

What Passes and Fails as Health Policy and Management

What Passes and Fails as Health Policy and Management
Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, Vol. 39, No. 5, October 2014 DOI 10.1215/03616878-2813719

Rodwin, Victor G. and David Chinitz

The field of health policy and management (HPAM) faces a gap between theory, policy and practice. Despite decades of efforts at reforming health policy and health care systems, prominent analysts state that the health system is ‘‘stuck’’ and that models for change remain ‘‘aspirational.’’ We discuss four reasons for the failure of current ideas and models for redesigning health care: (1) the dominance of microeconomic thinking; (2) the lack of comparative studies of health care organizations and the limits of health management theory in recognizing the importance of local contexts; (3) the separation of HPAM from the rank and file of health care, particularly physicians; and (4) the failure to expose medical students to issues of HPAM. We conclude with suggestions for rethinking how the field of HPAM might generate more promising policies for health care providers and managers by abandoning the illusion of context-free theories and, instead, seeking to facilitate the processes by which organizations can learn to improve their own performance.

‘Big Push’ To Reduce Maternal Mortality In Uganda And Zambia Enhanced Health Systems But Lacked A Sustainability Plan

‘Big Push’ To Reduce Maternal Mortality In Uganda And Zambia Enhanced Health Systems But Lacked A Sustainability Plan
doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2013.0637 Health Aff June 2014 vol. 33 no. 6 1058-1066

Margaret E. Kruk, Miriam Rabkin, Karen Ann Grépin, Katherine Austin-Evelyn, Dana Greeson, Tsitsi Beatrice Masvawure, Emma Rose Sacks, Daniel Vail and Sandro Galea

In the past decade, “big push” global health initiatives financed by international donors have aimed to rapidly reach ambitious health targets in low-income countries. The health system impacts of these efforts are infrequently assessed. Saving Mothers, Giving Life is a global public-private partnership that aims to reduce maternal mortality dramatically in one year in eight districts in Uganda and Zambia. We evaluated the first six to twelve months of the program’s implementation, its ownership by national ministries of health, and its effects on health systems. The project’s impact on maternal mortality is not reported here. We found that the Saving Mothers, Giving Life initiative delivered a large “dose” of intervention quickly by capitalizing on existing US international health assistance platforms, such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Early benefits to the broader health system included greater policy attention to maternal and child health, new health care infrastructure, and new models for collaborating with the private sector and communities. However, the rapid pace, external design, and lack of a long-term financing plan hindered integration into the health system and local ownership. Sustaining and scaling up early gains of similar big push initiatives requires longer-term commitments and a clear plan for transition to national control.

Promotion of Healthy Eating through Public Policy: A Controlled Experiment

Promotion of Healthy Eating through Public Policy: A Controlled Experiment
American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 2013; 45(1): 49-55.

Elbel B, Taksler G, Mijanovich T, Abrams C, Dixon LB

To induce consumers to purchase healthier foods and beverages, some policymakers have suggested special taxes or labels on unhealthy products. The potential of such policies is unknown.

In a controlled field experiment, researchers tested whether consumers were more likely to purchase healthy products under such policies.

From October to December 2011, researchers opened a store at a large hospital that sold a variety of healthier and less-healthy foods and beverages. Purchases (N=3680) were analyzed under five conditions: a baseline with no special labeling or taxation, a 30% tax, highlighting the phrase “less healthy” on the price tag, and combinations of taxation and labeling. Purchases were analyzed in January–July 2012, at the single-item and transaction levels.

There was no significant difference between the various taxation conditions. Consumers were 11 percentage points more likely to purchase a healthier item under a 30% tax (95% CI=7%, 16%, p<0.001) and 6 percentage points more likely under labeling (95% CI=0%, 12%, p=0.04). By product type, consumers switched away from the purchase of less-healthy food under taxation (9 percentage point decrease, p<0.001) and into healthier beverages (6 percentage point increase, p=0.001); there were no effects for labeling. Conditions were associated with the purchase of 11–14 fewer calories (9%–11% in relative terms) and 2 fewer grams of sugar. Results remained significant controlling for all items purchased in a single transaction.

Taxation may induce consumers to purchase healthier foods and beverages. However, it is unclear whether the 15%–20% tax rates proposed in public policy discussions would be more effective than labeling products as less healthy.

HIV testing in the nation’s opioid treatment programs, 2005-2011: The role of state regulations

HIV testing in the nation’s opioid treatment programs, 2005-2011: The role of state regulations
Health Services Research, 2014 (February), 49(1):230-48. DOI: 10.1111/1475-6773.12094

D’Aunno, T., Pollack, H.A., Jiang, L., Metsch, L.R. & Friedmann, P. D.

Objective: To identify the extent to which clients in a national sample of opioid treatment programs (OTPs) received HIV testing in 2005 and 2011; to examine relationships between state laws for informed consent and pretest counseling and rates of HIV testing among OTP clients.

Data Source: Data were collected from a nationally representative sample of OTPs in 2005 (n = 171) and 2011 (n = 200).

Study Design: Random-effects logit and interval regression analyses were used to examine changes in HIV testing rates and the relationship of state laws to HIV testing among OTPs.

Data Collection: Data on OTP provision of HIV testing were collected in phone surveys from OTP managers; data also were collected on state laws for HIV testing.

Principal Findings: The percentage of OTPs offering HIV testing decreased significantly from 93 percent in 2005 to 64 percent in 2011. Similarly, the percentage of clients tested decreased from an average of 41 percent in 2005 to 17 percent in 2011. OTPs located in states whose laws do not require pretest counseling and that use opt-out consent were more likely to provide HIV testing and to test higher percentages of clients.

Conclusions: The results show the need to increase HIV testing among OTP clients; the results also underscore the beneficial possibilities of dropping pretest counseling as a requirement for HIV testing and of using the opt-out approach to informed consent for testing.

How States Stand to Gain or Lose Federal Funds by Opting In or Out of the Medicaid Expansion

How States Stand to Gain or Lose Federal Funds by Opting In or Out of the Medicaid Expansion
The Commonwealth Fund Vol 32, December 2013

Sherry Glied and Stephanie Ma

Following the Supreme Court's decision in 2012, state officials are now deciding whether to expand their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act. While the states' costs of participating in the Medicaid expansion have been at the forefront of this discussion, the expansion has much larger implications for the flow of federal funds going to the states. This issue brief examines how participating in the Medicaid expansion will affect the movement of federal funds to each state. States that choose to participate in the expansion will experience a more positive net flow of federal funds than will states that choose not to participate. In addition to providing valuable health insurance benefits to low-income state residents, and steady sources of financing to state health care providers, the Medicaid expansion will be an important source of new federal funds for states.

Dispelling An Urban Legend: Frequent Emergency Department Users Have Substantial Burden Of Disease

Dispelling An Urban Legend: Frequent Emergency Department Users Have Substantial Burden Of Disease
Health Affairs, 32, no.12 (2013):2099-2108

Billings, John and Maria C. Raven

Urban legend has often characterized frequent emergency department (ED) patients as mentally ill substance users who are a costly drain on the health care system and who contribute to ED overcrowding because of unnecessary visits for conditions that could be treated more efficiently elsewhere. This study of Medicaid ED users in New York City shows that behavioral health conditions are responsible for a small share of ED visits by frequent users, and that ED use accounts for a small portion of these patients’ total Medicaid costs. Frequent ED users have a substantial burden of disease, and they have high rates of primary and specialty care use. They also have linkages to outpatient care that are comparable to those of other ED patients. It is possible to use predictive modeling to identify who will become a repeat ED user and thus to help target interventions. However, policy makers should view reducing frequent ED use as only one element of more-comprehensive intervention strategies for frequent health system users.

Calorie Labeling, Fast Food Purchasing and Restaurant Visits

Calorie Labeling, Fast Food Purchasing and Restaurant Visits
Obesity, 21: 2172–2179. doi: 10.1002/oby.20550

Elbel, B., Mijanovich, T., Dixon, L. B., Abrams, C., Weitzman, B., Kersh, R., Auchincloss, A. H. and Ogedegbe, G.

Obesity is a pressing public health problem without proven population-wide solutions. Researchers sought to determine whether a city-mandated policy requiring calorie labeling at fast food restaurants was associated with consumer awareness of labels, calories purchased and fast food restaurant visits.

Design and Methods
Difference-in-differences design, with data collected from consumers outside fast food restaurants and via a random digit dial telephone survey, before (December 2009) and after (June 2010) labeling in Philadelphia (which implemented mandatory labeling) and Baltimore (matched comparison city). Measures included: self-reported use of calorie information, calories purchased determined via fast food receipts, and self-reported weekly fast-food visits.

The consumer sample was predominantly Black (71%), and high school educated (62%). Postlabeling, 38% of Philadelphia consumers noticed the calorie labels for a 33% point (P < 0.001) increase relative to Baltimore. Calories purchased and number of fast food visits did not change in either city over time.

While some consumers report noticing and using calorie information, no population level changes were noted in calories purchased or fast food visits. Other controlled studies are needed to examine the longer term impact of labeling as it becomes national law.


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