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Academic year: 2022



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Sponsored by a Grant TÁMOP-4.1.2-08/2/A/KMR-2009-0041 Course Material Developed by Department of Economics,

Faculty of Social Sciences, Eötvös Loránd University Budapest (ELTE) Department of Economics, Eötvös Loránd University Budapest

Institute of Economics, Hungarian Academy of Sciences Balassi Kiadó, Budapest



Authors: Éva Orosz, Zoltán Kaló and Balázs Nagy Supervised by Éva Orosz

June 2011

ELTE Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economics


Week 5

Resource allocation in health systems

Author: Éva Orosz

Supervised by Éva Orosz




• Main issues in resource allocation

• Theory of purchasing

• Provider payment methods

• Resource allocation mechanisms at macro-level

• Institutional frameworks of resource



Key components of financing systems

• Mode of participation and the basis for benefit entitlement

• The benefit-basket

• Method(s) for revenue-raising

• Mechanism and extent of pooling and re- allocation of funds

• Allocation of resources (purchasing)


Health system financing functions

Source: (Kutzin, 2001)


Who is the purchaser?

Institutional structure of the purchasing (financing) organisations

From what funds (pools)?

Pooling of funds and redistribution among purchasing organisations. Principles, mechanisms and institutions

Purchasing of services

What? The way of defining the benefit-basket (institutions and mechanisms)

From whom? – Economic and quality regulation concerning the providers

– Characteristics of contracting between the purchaser and provider

How? Provider payment methods

Key questions of resource-allocation/purchasing


The concept of regulation

• Any government measure or intervention that seeks to change the behaviour of

individuals or groups


Economic regulation

• Revenue-raising (contribution, co-payment, subsidies)

• Creating risk-pooling funds

• Prices – accurate and fair to different types of providers (payment methods)

• Entry – to enable new entrants and to maintain local capacity and choice

• Financial monitoring, intervention and exit – failure regime and protection of minimum standard of patient access to essential services

• Competition – measures to promote or maintain

competition in face of natural tendency to monopoly, except in circumstances where this is likely to increase inefficiencies


Quality regulation

• Service coverage and eligibility – to determine what services are available to patients

• Quality assurance and control – to set standards and protect patients from substandard providers

• Consumer protection – to prevent risk-selection, death with complaints

• Choice – on the basis of quality (price will also be

relevant for choice of services outside publicly financed system)

• Incorporating quality elements into contracts between financier and provider


Principles of good regulation

Proportionate – to the risk

Accountable – to ministers and parliament, to users and the public

Consistent – predictable, so that people know where they stand

Transparent – open, simple and user- friendly

Targeted – focused on the problem, with minimal side effects


Theories of purchasing

• The principal – agent framework

• Transactions

• Contracts

• Transaction costs

• Governance structures


The principal – agent relationship

• The principal (e.g. financiers) contracts the agent (e.g. physician) to implement a given

activity (e.g., to provide health services of high quality and efficiency) or to make certain


• The agent has an advantage of information asymmetry

• The agent can act without the principal’s awareness

• The principal recognizes his/her own

information deficit and the superiority of the agent’s information


The principal – agent relationships

• The principal and the agent have:

– different utility function – different information

• The principal cannot be sure that the agent used all the information available in performing their role.

• The agent’s effort cannot be observed. Consequence:

the output is the basis for payment.

• External factors may affect the agent’s ability to perform.

• It is often difficult to see whether (and to what extent) poor result is attributable to the agent or to external factors.


The principal-agent relationships in the health system

• Complex principal-agent relationships between the following actors/institutions of the health system:

– Actors providing financial revenues (employers, households, etc.)

– Purchasers (financier organizations) – Providers (e.g., hospitals)

– Physicians

– Managers of health institutions

– Health personnel (other than physicians) – Patients

– Government

• The same actor can be involved in more than one principal-agent relationship (e.g., the physician acts as the agent of the patient and as the agent of the financier organisation at the same time).


Relationship between the financier and provider

The provider acts as the agent of the financier

• The principal: the purchasing organization:

– Local government

– Social health insurance organization, insurance company

• The agent: the provider

– Hospital – Physician

• The principal’s goal is to motivate the agent to provide services of good quality and efficiency.


Key issues of incentives to reward agents

• To draw up such a contract (provider-payment system) that is most able to motivate the

agent to perform the contract (to maximize welfare in the case of the agent’s behaviour following its self-interests).

• To develop such a regulation that is able to ensure that the agent bear the responsibility for its failings, but does not bears the

responsibility for factors outside its control.


Components of motivation

• Motivation

– Professional ethic

Financial reward of activity (payment system)

– Reputation

– Step in professional carrier


Transaction – contract – transaction costs

• Specialization – transactions

• Specialization – the problem of coordination and motivation

Contract: a mechanism through which individuals and institutions coordinate their agreements (it can be

written or informal)

Transaction costs: any use of resources required to draw up and implement an agreement, including costs of developing negotiation strategies and avoiding

cheating, etc.

– Ex-ante: preparing a contract and negotiations between parties concerned

– Ex-post: monitoring, handling disputes


Characteristics of transactions

• ”Asset specificity: characteristics of assets that

determine whether they are easily redeployable or not (site, physical assets, human assets, dedicated


• Bounded rationality: behaviour that is intendedly rational, but only limitedly so. There are limits of

knowledge and capacity that compromise efforts to behave rationally.

• Opportunism: situation where one party involved in a contract acts in his or her self-interest at the expense of the other party.

• Uncertainty: situation in which it is not possible to know or even predict the likelihood of an event occurring”.

Source: (Jan, et.al. 2005, p.154)


Characteristics of transactions

• Complexity

• Uncertainty – limited information

– about the quantity and costs of the activity concerned; uncertainty of measuring the performance

• Consequences of limited information

– Perverse incentives (applied by the principal) – Risk of deviating from the contract, negative

behaviour of the agent (the opportunistic behaviour of the agent: e.g., poor quality, reducing quantity,

”cream-screaming”, ”rent-seeking”, etc.)


Consequences of complexity and uncertainty

• Increasing complexity and uncertainty – increasing transaction costs

• Under the circumstances of uncertainty the contracts are dependent on relationships and trust

• Reputation

– In repeated transactions stakeholders have every incentive to maintain a good reputation because the outcome of future transactions depends on it.

– Consequences: Reputation is a very powerful mechanism for economizing on transaction cost.


Provider payment



Characteristics of provider payment methods

• What constitutes the basis of the payment?

– Time spent on services – Services provided

– Population (estimated need)

• How are the composition, quantity, quality and costs of services taken into account by the payment methods?

• Open-ended vs. closed-ended

• Prospective vs. retrospective


A typology of provider payment methods

Source: (Langenbrunner et. al.,2005)


Diagnosis Related Groups (DRG)

• Purposes:

– Increasing transparency (costs, quality and efficiency of health care)

– Incentives for efficiency

– Support tools for management decisions


Essential building blocks of DRG- systems

Source: (Scheller-Kreinsen, 2009)


DRG adjustment and determinants of hospital cost

Source: (Scheller–Kreinsen, 2009)


Basic types of payment methods

A key distinguishing factor: whether the costs and quantity are taken into consideration in a retrospective or prospective way

• Retrospective remuneration of costs: Fee-for- service

– unregulated prices or – pre-set tariff-system

• Prospective payment for the cost of a

treatment episode: Diagnosis Related Groups (quantity are covered in a retrospective way)

• Prospective payment: capitation; global budget


Prevent health problems

Deliver services

Responsive to expectations

Contain costs Salaried /

Global budget

++ – – +/– +++

Capitation +++ – – ++ +++

Diagnostic related payment

+/– ++ ++ +/– (?)

Hospital days +/– +++ ++ – – –

Fee-for-service +/– +++ +++ – – –

+++ very positive effect, ++ some positive effect, +/– little effect /neutral, – – some negative effect, – – – strong negative effect

Provider payment mechanisms and provider behaviour

Source: (Langenbrunner et. al., 2005)


Risks borne by purchasers

Fee for service DRG in ambulatory care Hospital day

DRGs Adjusted capitation Global budget

Risks borne by providers


Risk-sharing under provider payment mechanisms

Source: Dózsa, 2005


Modifications of basic payment methods

Purpose of the modifications: to tackle the potential negative effects

• Relative tariff-system (point-system) + budget cap at regional or national level

• Fee-for-service + individual volume limit for each provider

• DRGs with prices depending on changes in quantity + budget cap at regional or national level

• Capitation + fee-for-service for certain services

• Global budget + retrospective corrections


Main deficiencies in health service delivery

• An incomplete evidence base about ‘what works’ in medicine

• Large variations in clinical practice with patients with similar characteristics getting very different care

• The delivery of inappropriate care with no benefit to patients

• Failure to deliver appropriate, evidence-based care to patient groups such as the chronically ill

• Patients’ safety is often inadequate

• An absence of patient-reported outcome measurement (reluctance of policy-makers and providers to utilize

PROMs for measuring the results of treatments)

Forrás: (Maynard, 2008)


Payment for performance: P4P

• ”

Traditional” payment methods do not operate adequate incentives for high quality of care

• P4P: incorporating quality incentives

(indicators) into ”traditional” provider payment mechanisms

• based on quality process and outcome indicators

• incentives at the margin: small financial gain and losses for hospitals and specialists


Payment for performance (P4P)

• Quality goals and indicators can be attached to structural characteristics of providers,

process and outcome of health care or their combination.

• Issues of designing incentives:

• Individual versus group

• High level of performance versus the

magnitude of improvement in performance


• Mechanisms of macro-level resource allocation

• Institutional framework of resource



Revenue- collection

Fund-pooling Purchasing Example Centralised Centralised

(The same organization can collect and pool the revenues.)

Centralised Hungary, Malta

Centralised Centralised + Decentralised

(Resources are often allocated through capitation.)

Decentralised Belgium, Netherlands

Centralised +



(+ subsidies by central government)

Decentralised Finland, Sweden

Decentralised Decentralised + Centralised (A part or 100% of the revenues are transferred to a joint fund and redistributed)

Decentralised Germany before 2009;


Decentralised Decentralised Decentralised Austria before mid-70s

Resource-allocation: from revenue-collection to

purchasers (macro-level resource allocation)


Mechanisms of macro-level resource allocation

Fund-pooling: allocation of resources to organizations pooling the funds or redistribution of resources among them:

• Applying a „historical” basis: utilization of services in a previous period or capacities of providers

• Budget subsidies (e.g., contribution payment by central government on behalf of certain non-active population groups

• Budget subsidies to local governments with

disadvantageous socio-economic circumstances

• Budget subsidies based on capitation (complementing decentralized resources)

• Allocation of centrally collected revenues (social insurance contributions) based on capitation (adjusted to risks)


Strategic (needs-based) resource allocation

• The principle: money is spent where it is

needed rather than where it is generated or accumulated.

• Allocation of a central fund or redistribution among decentralized funds based on

capitation (a resource allocation formula with risk-adjustment)

• in addition to population age and sex structure, a range of socioeconomic, mortality and morbidity, and utilization variables used to estimate needs.


Advantages of resource allocation based on risk-adjusted capitation

• Possible instruments

• for controlling total spending

• for improving equity in resource allocation

• Incentives for improving efficiency – in terms of treatment episodes

• Allowing flexibility – in adjusting service delivery to local circumstances

• Transparency


Possible problems with resource allocation based on capitation

• It is difficult to develop an adequate

capitation formula – due to uncertainty in needs and variability in treatments.

• It is difficult to treat fluctuation in costs, if the number of people belonging to a given fund is relatively small.

• Incentives for care-coordination may be lost, if the number of people belonging to a given fund is too big.


Possible problems with resource allocation based on risk-adjusted capitation

Possible adverse incentives for:

• cost-shifting

• reducing costs at the expense of quality

• risk-selection


Institutional framework of the insurance market

Source: (Kutzin, 2001)



Dózsa Cs. (2005), A finanszírozási technikák alkalmazásának tapasztalatai és ösztönző hatásai a hazai egészségügyi szolgáltatások

közfinanszírozásában. (IME), 4(4), 18-22

Jan, S. et.al.(2005), Economic Analysis for Management and Policy, Open University Press

Kutzin (2001), A Descriptive Framework for Country-Level Analysis of Health Care Financing Arrangements. Health Policy, 56(3), 171-204

Langenbrunner, J., Kutzin, J., Orosz, E. and Miriam Wiley): Purchasing and paying providers. In: Figueras,J., Robinson,R. and Jakubowski,E.

(eds.)(2005), Purchasing to improve health system performance, European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies Series. Open University Press

Maynard (2008), Payment for Performance (P4P): International experience and a cautionary proposal for Estonia, WHO

Nagy B.(2009), Kockázatkiigazítás az egészségügyi források allokációjánál Magyarországon - a fejkvóta alapú forrásallokációs formula fejlesztése.

Doktori disszertáció

Orosz É. (2010) Forrásteremtés és forrásallokáció. In: Kaló Z. et al.(2010):

Egészség-gazdaságtani fogalomtár II. Professional Publishing Hungary, Medical Tribune Divízió

Scheller-Kreinsen (2009), The ABC of DRGs. EuroObserver. 2009 Winter



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