Modelling Health Seeking Behaviour

In this note we employ econometric models to simulate the impact of changes in policy variables on health seeking behaviour. The models use preferences implicit in current health seeking behaviour to investigate possible changes in the pattern of demand if current cost constraints and limits on provider choice were removed. While the data show that access to health services in the public sector has improved during recent years, the real issue is the lack of access to quality care. If the whole population were to be given free access to either private or public care (as per some of the original NHI proposals), there would be a large shift towards the private sector, which is currently associated with higher quality care. These model predictions can be interpreted as indicative of current pent-up demand for high quality services. Even if the choice between the private and public sector is restricted (as seems clear from more recent proposals), demand for healthcare can be expected to increase as quality improves in the public sector.