Background & objectives: Income inequality is associated with poor health. Inequities exist in service utilization and financing for health care. Health care costs push high number of households into poverty in India. We undertook this study to ascertain inequities in health status, service utilization and out-of-pocket (OOP) health expenditures in two States in north India namely, Haryana and Punjab, and Union Territory of Chandigarh.
Methods: Data from National Sample Survey 60 th Round on Morbidity and Health Care were analyzed by mean consumption expenditure quintiles. Indicators were devised to document inequities in the dimensions of horizontal and vertical inequity; and redistribution of public subsidy. Concentration index (CI), and equity ratio in conjunction with concentration curve were computed to measure inequity.
Results: Reporting of morbidity and hospitalization rate had a pro-rich distribution in all three States indicating poor utilization of health services by low income households. Nearly 57 and 60 per cent households from poorest income quintile in Haryana and Punjab, respectively faced catastrophic OOP hospitalization expenditure at 10 per cent threshold. Lower prevalence of catastrophic expenditure was recorded in higher income groups. Public sector also incurred high costs for hospitalization in selected three States. Medicines constituted 19 to 47 per cent of hospitalization expenditure and 59 to 86 per cent OPD expenditure borne OOP by households in public sector. Public sector hospitalizations had a pro-poor distribution in Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh.
Interpretation & conclusions: Our analysis indicates that public sector health service utilization needs to be improved. OOP health care expenditures at public sector institutions should to be curtailed to improve utilization of poorer segments of population. Greater availability of medicines in public sector and regulation of their prices provide a unique opportunity to reduce public sector OOP expenditure.