Health financing for universal coverage

Health financing in Argentina: an empirical study of health care utilization and health care expenditure

Discussion paper, Number 5/2006

World Health Organization

Publication details

Number of pages: 28
Publication date: 2006
Languages: English
WHO reference number: EIP/HSF/DP.06.5



This paper aims to analyse the determinants of health care utilization and catastrophic expenditure in Argentina using 1997 data from two household surveys. That period was characterized as a time of institutional changes in the health sector. Although our goal is not to evaluate the proposed health sector reform, the results presented can lead to a better understanding of the effects of possible changes in this health sector and contribute to improve health care policy design.

Multinomial logit and logit models are used to identify differences across socio-economic groups with respect to the use of different providers and catastrophic expenditure. Given need, the insured population was more likely to receive health care compared to the non-insured. The study identifies good reasons to believe that households with elderly members or inpatient health care expenditure are the most vulnerable and most likely to experience financial difficulties due to out-of-pocket payments.

There is no evidence that households with social health insurance coverage are protected against catastrophic expenditure and therefore the issue is not so much the presence of health insurance coverage as it is the depth of that coverage. Health care utilization is clearly linked to income. Richer individuals are more likely to use both social health insurance and private health facilities and are less likely to use public facilities, which may indicate that the perception of poor quality of care in public health facilities leads people to turn to private health care as soon as they can afford it.