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Keywords:

  • waiting time;
  • specialist consultation;
  • inpatient surgery;
  • outpatient surgery;
  • count data regression

Abstract

Waiting times for specialist consultation and non-emergency surgery are often considered an equitable rationing mechanism in the public healthcare sector, because access to care is not based on socioeconomic status. This study tests empirically this claim using data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). The sample includes nine European countries: Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. For specialist consultation, we find that individuals with high education experience a reduction in waiting times of 68% in Spain, 67% in Italy and 34% in France (compared with individuals with low education). Individuals with intermediate education report a waiting-time reduction of 74% in Greece (compared with individuals with low education). There is also evidence of a negative and significant association between education and waiting times for non-emergency surgery in Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden. High education reduces waits by 66, 32 and 48%, respectively. We also find income effects, although generally modest. An increase in income of 10 000 Euro reduces waiting times for specialist consultation by 8% in Germany and waiting times for non-emergency surgery by 26% in Greece. Surprisingly, an increase in income of 10 000 Euro increases waits by 11% in Sweden. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.