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Health Econ. 2014 Apr;23(4):446-61. doi: 10.1002/hec.2924. Epub 2013 Apr 23.

Waiting time and socioeconomic status--an individual-level analysis.

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Uni Rokkan Centre, Uni Research, Bergen, Norway.


Waiting time is a rationing mechanism that is used in publicly funded healthcare systems. From an equity viewpoint, it is regarded as preferable to co-payments. However, long waits are an indication of poor quality of service. To our knowledge, this analysis is the first to benefit from individual-level data from administrative registers to investigate the relationship between waiting time, income, and education. Furthermore, it makes use of an extensive set of medical information that serves as indicators of patient need. Differences in waiting time by socioeconomic status are detected. For men, there is a statistically highly significant negative association between income and waiting time, driven by men in the highest income group, which constitutes 12% of all men. More educated women, that is, those having an education above compulsory schooling, experience lower waiting time than their fellow sisters with the lowest level of education.


elective treatment; equity; quality of care; socioeconomic status; waiting time

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