Does it matter how you pay doctors and hospitals? Evidence from the Asia Pacific

Clear evidence suggests the importance of health service provider payment incentives for achieving efficiency, equal access, and quality, including attention to primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention. “Pay for performance” may be on the cusp of significant expansion in Asia, and reform away from fee-for-service has been underway for several years in several economies. Yet despite the policy relevance, the evidence base for evaluating payment reforms in Asia is still very limited.

China in particular has been undertaking significant reforms to its health care system in both rural and urban areas. With the expansion of insurance coverage and need to resolve incentive problems like “supporting medical care through drug sales,” there is an urgent need for evaluating alternative ways of paying health service providers. Evidence from policy reforms in specific regions of China, as well as other economies of the Asia-Pacific, can provide valuable evidence to help inform policy decisions about how to align provider incentives with policy goals of quality care at reasonable cost.

To illuminate these questions, the Asia Health Policy Program and several collaborating institutions are planning to convene a conference on health care provider payment incentives on November 7-8, 2008 in Beijing. The conference will highlight and seek to distill “best-practice” lessons from rigorous and policy-relevant evaluations of recent reforms in China and elsewhere in the Asia Pacific.

The organizing committee – including health economists from Shorenstein APARC, Peking University, Tsinghua University, and Seoul National University – reviewed submissions in June 2008 and accepted sixteen. The conference papers cover payment issues in Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Tajikistan, the Philippines, and the US, and the disciplines of economics, health services research/health policy, public health, medicine, and ethics. Topics include institutionalized informal payments; the impact of global budget policies on high-cost patients; public-private partnerships; public-sector physicians owning private pharmacies; evidence-informed case payment rates; payment and hospital quality; bonuses and physician satisfaction; physician prescription choice between brand-name and generic drugs; and differences in pharmaceutical utilization across insurance plans that pay providers differently (fee-for-service versus capitation).

Policymakers from China’s National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Health will also speak at the conference. Selected research papers will be published through the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center either in a special volume or in a special issue of an English-language health policy journal.