Preferred providers, health insurance and primary health care in Chile
Reforms in the early 1980s created Chile's mixed system of health care provision and finance. Since then Chileans have had to choose between a statesubsidised public health insurance system or the private health plans offered by several insurance companies. In the public system, users may be restricted to the public facility network, with no choice of doctor or medical centre, or they may opt for a free choice mode (preferred providers), which lets them choose both doctor and place of attention. Private insurance providers offer a wide variety of health plans, giving the customer a reasonable range of care options. Although this public-private mix has now been operating for more than 20 years, there has been no empirical study of the factors determining the choice of the preferred providers' mode by public beneficiaries. Likewise, few studies have looked at the determinants in the choice between public and private insurance, and the relationship between the latter choice and the use of health services. The first two empirical chapters of this thesis look at the determinants of these sources of choice, using different econometric tools: the choice of preferred providers is examined using a logit model; the analysis into the choice between public and private insurance uses a probit model; and the impact of holding private insurance as a factor in determining use of health services is estimated through a two-stage tobit model. A further significant aspect of the reforms of the '80s was the process of decentralisation for primary health care provision. Since then a substantial part of preventive health care and promotion occurs locally, and among these services children's health checks are an important policy objective. To encourage attendance parents are given free food supplements if they keep to the timetable for their child's check-ups. However these free food handouts partially account for attendance at the check-ups. Thus the final empirical chapter of the thesis uses a probabilistic model to look at the monetary and non-monetary factors that lead parents to request health checks for their children.