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Income and the use of health care: an empirical study of Egypt and Lebanon



In middle-income Arab countries such as Egypt and Lebanon, income-associated equity in health care remains an elusive policy objective in part due to a relatively high reliance on out-of-pocket payments in financing care. This article examines the effect of income on the use of outpatient and inpatient health care services in Egypt and Lebanon using econometric analysis of cross-sectional data from the World Health Organization. In light of noticeable differences in income and public financing arrangements, these two countries serve as interesting case studies. Multivariate regression results suggest that Egyptian respondents were more likely to use health services than their Lebanese counterparts, holding all else constant, and that this effect was particularly evident for outpatient care. A higher income and insurance increased the likelihood of outpatient use more so than inpatient use, with these effects more pronounced in Lebanon. Overall, lower-income groups tended to report having worse health levels and paying more out-of-pocket on health care as a share of income than did higher-income groups. At the same time, these socioeconomic disparities in health appeared to be greater in Lebanon than in Egypt. Economic barriers to the use of health services are discussed within the context of health financing policy reforms aimed at improving equity in access to care in countries such as Egypt and Lebanon.


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