From 1997 to 1999, the Chilean Ministry of Health conducted studies on the health care networks in each of the country's 13 regions in order to help plan regional health sector development and define investment projects. Health insurance coverage displayed major geographic, age, and gender variations. Out-patient and in-patient medical care in the public sector showed substantial geographic variations. According to patient discharge records from national referral hospitals, only some 20% of total health care capability is used to treat 60% of the Chilean population living in regions outside the Greater Metropolitan area. Analysis of primary care funding shows that municipalities allocating the highest per capita funds are not the ones with the greatest health care needs. New reform proposals must address the issue of complementarity between the public and private health sectors and strengthen the Ministry of Health's leadership role in order for the health system to improve its overall response to the population's health care needs.