Health financing for universal coverage

Health care cost containment policies in high-income countries: how successful are monetary incentives?

Discussion paper, Number 2/2002

World Health Organization

Publication details

Number of pages: 22
Publication date: 2002
Languages: English
WHO reference number: EIP/FER/DP.02.2



This document investigates cost-containment as a policy issue in an effort to answer the question of what the right amount is that countries should spend on health care. Society’s preferences, and not just economics, have an important impact on choosing the appropriate amount of care. For example, an increase in the share of health expenditure in GDP is not just to be understood as a cost explosion, but could simply be a response to population’s preferences for more and better care.

This technical brief focuses on the cost-containment potential found in certain policy tools that incorporate monetary incentives. The brief contains a summary of experiences in high-income countries; all of the countries referred to belong to the OECD or the European Union.

A schematic view is presented of the cost-containment methods that will be discussed as well as an analysis of the experience with these policy tools and their effects on cost-containment. The levels and trends in administrative costs will be addressed and finally, a summary table comparing the expected effectiveness of the various tools in terms of cost-containment concludes the discussion.