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Health Policy. 2013 Oct;112(3):163-71. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2013.07.024. Epub 2013 Aug 6.

Budget-makers and health care systems.

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Department of Political Science, Case Western Reserve University, Mather House 113, 11201 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106-7109, USA. Electronic address:


Health programs are shaped by the decisions made in budget processes, so how budget-makers view health programs is an important part of making health policy. Budgeting in any country involves its own policy community, with key players including budgeting professionals and political authorities. This article reviews the typical pressures on and attitudes of these actors when they address health policy choices. The worldview of budget professionals includes attitudes that are congenial to particular policy perspectives, such as the desire to select packages of programs that maximize population health. The pressures on political authorities, however, are very different: most importantly, public demand for health care services is stronger than for virtually any other government activity. The norms and procedures of budgeting also tend to discourage adoption of some of the more enthusiastically promoted health policy reforms. Therefore talk about rationalizing systems is not matched by action; and action is better explained by the need to minimize blame. The budget-maker's perspective provides insight about key controversies in healthcare policy such as decentralization, competition, health service systems as opposed to health insurance systems, and dedicated vs. general revenue finance. It also explains the frequency of various "gaming" behaviors.


Budgeting; Health care spending; Policy development; Rationalization

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