Discrimination in a universal health system: Explaining socioeconomic waiting time gaps

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Journal Article
Journal of Health Economics, 2013, 32 (1), pp. 181 - 194
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One of the core goals of a universal health care system is to eliminate discrimination on the basis of socioeconomic status. We test for discrimination using patient waiting times for non-emergency treatment in public hospitals. Waiting time should reflect patients' clinical need with priority given to more urgent cases. Using data from Australia, we find evidence of prioritisation of the most socioeconomically advantaged patients at all quantiles of the waiting time distribution. These patients also benefit from variation in supply endowments. These results challenge the universal health system's core principle of equitable treatment. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.
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