The determinants of health-care expenditure: new results from semiparametric estimation

Health Econ. 2010 Aug;19(8):964-78. doi: 10.1002/hec.1540.


Recent cross-country studies have questioned the existence of a systematic relationship between per capita health-care expenditure (HCE) and explanatory variables such as income, population ageing and total public expenditure. We reexamine this issue mainly focussing at a flexible semiparametric estimation method that allows the parameters of the model to depend on a state variable. Using the age structure of the population as the state variable, we find that the income elasticity increases with population ageing, while other explanatory variables are not significantly influenced by it. Additionally we find that the HCE relationship becomes more and more unstable in ageing economies. These results explain the difficulty to identify both the influence of population ageing and income on HCE in previous studies. Furthermore they indicate that international convergence of HCE across countries crucially depends on the convergence of the population age structure. We also discuss the policy implications of our results regarding the design of a fair health-care financing system and the evolution of HCE to avoid budgetary problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Europe
  • Health Expenditures*
  • Health Planning / economics*
  • Humans
  • Models, Econometric
  • Population Dynamics*
  • United States