The Response of Decentralized Health Services to Demand Uncertainty and the Role of Political Parties in the Spanish Public Health System
Journal of Productivity Analysis, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 357-365 (2013)
Posted: 27 May 2016
Date Written: December 1, 2013
Decentralization of the public health system should lead to health resources being managed more in line with citizens’ preferences. A decentralized system is more flexible in that it can better adapt resources to local needs. Moreover, if regional political parties have responsibility for public health policies, citizens will be able to elect those parties whose positions are more in line with their preferences. However, the role of political parties in public health management has received little attention in the literature. Focusing on the decision to provide reserve service capacity to deal with demand uncertainty, we analyse whether there have been differences between central and decentralized health authorities in Spain and whether these can be explained to some extent by the way different political parties manage the trade-off between being able to cover demand and the economic costs involved. Using data on Spanish public hospitals for the period 1996–2006, we model the difference between observed and potential output using an output-oriented distance function. Reserve capacity is modelled as a function of demand uncertainty, economic costs and the political party in power. We find differences in the way resources are managed by central government and decentralized authorities, even within the same political party. We also find differences between the decentralized authorities themselves according to the political party in power. We conclude that decentralization of public health in Spain has provided regional political authorities with greater flexibility to manage reserve capacity in line with citizens’ needs and preferences.
Keywords: Decentralization, Public health system, Demand uncertainty, Reserve capacity, Political parties, Stochastic frontier analysis
JEL Classification: D24, D81, H75, I10
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