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Concept: Social security


The dramatic rise in chronically ill patients on permanent disability benefits threatens the sustainability of social security in high-income countries. Social insurance organizations have started to invest in promising, but costly return to work (RTW) coordination programmes. The benefit, however, remains uncertain. We conducted a systematic review to determine the long-term effectiveness of RTW coordination compared to usual practice in patients at risk for long-term disability.

Concepts: Medicine, Risk, Randomized controlled trial, Investment, Insurance, Finance, Social security, Social insurance


The economic and fiscal crisis of 2008 has erupted into the debate on the sustainability of health systems; some countries, such as Spain, have implemented strong policies of fiscal consolidation and austerity. The institutional framework and governance model of the national health system (NHS) after its devolution to regions in 2002 had significant weaknesses, which were not apparent in the rapid growth stage but which have been clearly visible since 2010. In this article, we describe the changes in government regulation from the national and NHS perspective: both general changes (clearly prompted by the economic authorities), and those more specifically addressed to healthcare. The Royal Decree-Law 16/2012 represents the centerpiece of austerity policies in healthcare but also implies a rupture with existing political consensus and a return to social security models. Our characterization of austerity in healthcare explores impacts on savings, services, and on the healthcare model itself, although the available information only allows some indications. The conclusions highlight the need to change the path of linear, rapid and radical budget cuts, providing a time-frame for implementing key reforms in terms of internal sustainability; to do so, it is appropriate to restore political and institutional consensus, to emphasize «clinical management» and divestment of inappropriate services (approach to the medical profession and its role as micro-manager), and to create frameworks of good governance and organizational innovations that support these structural reforms.

Concepts: Health economics, Medicine, Universal health care, Healthcare, Law, Investment, Implementation, Social security


The United States has a mortality disadvantage relative to its political and economic peer group of other rich democracies. Recently it has been suggested that there could be a role for social policy in explaining this disadvantage. In this paper, we test this “social policy hypothesis” by presenting a time-series cross-section analysis from 1970 to 2010 of the association between welfare state generosity (for unemployment insurance, sickness benefits, and pensions) and life expectancy, for the US and 17 other high-income countries. Fixed-effects estimation with autocorrelation-corrected standard errors (robust to unmeasured between-country differences and serial autocorrelation of repeated measures) found strong associations between welfare generosity and life expectancy. A unit increase in overall welfare generosity yields a 0.17 year increase in life expectancy at birth (p < 0.001), and a 0.07 year increase in life expectancy at age 65 (p < 0.001). The strongest effects of the welfare state are in the domain of pension benefits (b = 0.439 for life expectancy at birth, p < 0.001; b = 0.199 for life expectancy at age 65, p < 0.001). Models that lag the measures of social policy by ten years produce similar results, suggesting that the results are not driven by endogeneity bias. There is evidence that the US mortality disadvantage is, in part, a welfare-state disadvantage. We estimate that life expectancy in the US would be approximately 3.77 years longer, if it had just the average social policy generosity of the other 17 OECD nations.

Concepts: United States, Life expectancy, Sweden, Estimation, Canada, Unemployment, Social security, Pension


How to finance progress towards universal health coverage in low-income and middle-income countries is a subject of intense debate. We investigated how alternative tax systems affect the breadth, depth, and height of health system coverage.

Concepts: Health economics, Medicine, Universal health care, Economics, Health care system, Finance, Tax, Social security


Only 2% of acute care hospitals nationwide are safety-net facilities, but they provide 20% of uncompensated care to the uninsured. Because most are in low-income communities, they typically generate scant revenue from privately insured patients. The Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) program was established to help defray their costs for uncompensated care.(1) Currently, Medicaid DSH disburses $11.5 billion annually to the states, which have considerable latitude in allocating these funds. Some states carefully target their DSH payments to hospitals providing large volumes of uncompensated care, but others, such as Ohio and Georgia, spread their payments broadly, transforming the program into . . .

Concepts: Patient, Hospital, U.S. state, State, Health insurance in the United States, Social security


Mexico is reaching universal health coverage in 2012. A national health insurance programme called Seguro Popular, introduced in 2003, is providing access to a package of comprehensive health services with financial protection for more than 50 million Mexicans previously excluded from insurance. Universal coverage in Mexico is synonymous with social protection of health. This report analyses the road to universal coverage along three dimensions of protection: against health risks, for patients through quality assurance of health care, and against the financial consequences of disease and injury. We present a conceptual discussion of the transition from labour-based social security to social protection of health, which implies access to effective health care as a universal right based on citizenship, the ethical basis of the Mexican reform. We discuss the conditions that prompted the reform, as well as its design and inception, and we describe the 9-year, evidence-driven implementation process, including updates and improvements to the original programme. The core of the report concentrates on the effects and impacts of the reform, based on analysis of all published and publically available scientific literature and new data. Evidence indicates that Seguro Popular is improving access to health services and reducing the prevalence of catastrophic and impoverishing health expenditures, especially for the poor. Recent studies also show improvement in effective coverage. This research then addresses persistent challenges, including the need to translate financial resources into more effective, equitable and responsive health services. A next generation of reforms will be required and these include systemic measures to complete the reorganisation of the health system by functions. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the Mexican quest to achieve universal health coverage and its relevance for other low-income and middle-income countries.

Concepts: Health care, Health economics, Medicine, Healthcare reform, Universal health care, Health insurance, Mexico, Social security


Health systems in many jurisdictions struggle to reduce Emergency Department congestion and improve patient flow across the continuum of care. Flow is often described as a systemic issue requiring a “system approach”; however, the implications of this idea remain poorly understood. Focusing on a Canadian regional health system whose flow problems have been particularly intractable, this study sought to determine what system-level flaws impede healthcare organizations from improving flow.

Concepts: Health care, Health care provider, Health economics, Medicine, Healthcare, Hospital, Illness, Social security


There is a popular perception that insurance coverage will reduce overuse of the emergency department (ED). Both opponents and advocates of expanding insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have made statements to the effect that EDs have been jammed with the uninsured and that paying for the uninsured population’s emergency care has burdened the health care system as a result of the expense of that care. It has therefore been surprising to many to encounter evidence that insurance coverage increases ED use instead of decreasing it. Two facts may help explain this unexpected finding. First, there is a common misperception that the uninsured use the ED more than the insured. In fact, insured and uninsured adults use the ED at very similar rates and in very similar circumstances-and the uninsured use the ED substantially less than the Medicaid population. Second, while the uninsured do not use the ED more than the insured, they do use other types of care much less than the insured.

Concepts: Health care, Medicine, Health insurance, Risk, Urgent care, Insurance, Social security, Insurance in the United States


There are 9.2 million people who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. They’re eligible for both programs either because they are younger than 65 years of age, disabled, and poor or because they are 65 or older and are poor or have exhausted their nonhousing assets paying for health care. These dually eligible program participants make up about 20% of Medicare beneficiaries and about 17% of Medicaid beneficiaries and account for 29% and 39% of Medicare and Medicaid spending, respectively.(1) New federal policy initiatives are promoting organizations that integrate and coordinate care to meet the complex needs of this . . .

Concepts: Health care, Medicare, Health insurance, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Medicaid, Medicare and Medicaid, Social security, Medicare dual eligible


Physician retirement planning and timing have important implications for patients, hospitals, and healthcare systems. Unplanned early or late physician retirement can have dire consequences in terms of both patient safety and human resource allocations. This systematic review examined existing evidence on the timing and process of retirement of physicians. Four questions were addressed: (1) When do physicians retire? (2) Why do some physicians retire early? (3) Why do some physicians delay their retirement? (4) What strategies facilitate physician retention and/or retirement planning?

Concepts: Health care provider, Medicine, Patient, Hospital, Physician, Doctor-patient relationship, Resource allocation, Social security