Health status varies across socio-economic groups and health status is generally assumed to predict health care needs. Therefore the need for health care varies across socio-economic groups, and studies of equity in the distribution of health care between socio-economic groups must compare levels of utilisation with levels of need. Economic studies of equity in health care generally assume that health care needs can be derived from the current health-health care relationship. They therefore do not consider whether the current health-health care relationship is (vertically) equitable and the focus is restricted to horizontal inequity. This paper proposes a framework for incorporating the implications of vertical inequity for the socio-economic distribution of health care. An alternative to the current health-health care relationship is proposed using a restriction on the health-elasticity of health care. The health-elasticity of general practitioner contacts in Scotland is found to be generally negative, but positive at low levels of health status. Pro-rich estimates of horizontal inequity and vertical inequity are obtained but neither is statistically significant. Further analysis demonstrates that the magnitude of vertical inequity in health care may be larger than horizontal inequity. Copyright (C) 2002 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.
- socio-economic inequity
- general practitioner contacts