Horizontal inequity in access to health care in four South American cities

Working Paper 2009-131


This paper analyzes and compares socioeconomic inequalities in the use of healthcare services by the elderly in four South-American cities: Buenos Aires (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Montevideo (Uruguay) and San Pablo (Brazil). We use data from SABE, a survey on Health, Well-being and Aging administered in several Latin American cities in 2000. After having accounted for socioeconomic inequalities in healthcare needs, we find socioeconomic inequities favoring the rich in the use of preventive services (mammograms, pap tests, breast examinations, and prostate exams) in all of the studied cities. We also find inequities in the likelihood of having a medical visit in Santiago and Montevideo, and in some measures of quality of access in Santiago, Sao Paulo, and Buenos Aires. Santiago depicts the highest inequities in medical visits and Uruguay the worse indicators in mammograms and pap scans tests. For all cities, inequities in preventive services at least double inequities in other services. We do not find evidence of a trade-off between levels of access and equity in access to healthcare services. The decomposition of healthcare inequalities suggests that inequities within each health system (public or private) are more important than between systems.

Authors: .

Keywords: inequalities, healthcare, medical visit, preventive services.
JEL: I1, I11, I12, I18.