Healthcare Regulation as a Tool for Public Accountability
Medicine, Health Care, and Philosophy 2009 August; 12(3): 257-264
The increasing costs of healthcare delivery led to different political and administrative approaches trying to preserve the core values of the welfare state. This approach has well documented weaknesses namely with regard to healthcare rationing. The objective of this paper is to evaluate if independent healthcare regulation is an important tool with regard to the construction of fair processes for setting limits to healthcare. Methodologically the authors depart from Norman Daniels' and James Sabin's theory of accountability for reasonableness and try to determine if new regulatory models-namely independent agencies-perform better with regard to the public disclosure of the reasons and rationales of healthcare rationing. In publicly financed healthcare systems independent regulation is an important tool to assure fair and reasonable procedures of prioritising services. In accordance with the principle of public accountability, independent regulatory agencies are particularly well suited to assure publicity of the decision-making processes, relevance of the rationale involved and particularly mechanisms for challenge and dispute resolution regarding limit setting decisions. It follows that independent healthcare regulation could be regarded not only as an instrument for performance improvement but also as a tool of social justice. The authors conclude by stating that accountability for reasonableness should be regarded as a landmark of any healthcare reform. And therefore regulators have the social task of assuring that the rationales for limit-setting decisions are clearly accessible to the public.
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