State Healthcare Spends More On The Rich

Researchers found evidence that the Hungarian state healthcare system spends more on those who make more.

Anikó Bíró and Dániel Prinz studied the distribution of healthcare spending in Hungary in a 2019 paper (pdf). They arranged state healthcare spending in Hungary according to income percentile. Turns out, there is a positive correlation between income bracket and how much the state spends on healthcare on a certain individual.

The result is unexpected and unexplained.

tb jövedelmi szint

Horizontal axis: average wage in each income percentile. Vertical axis: How much the state health insurer spend per person in that income percentile. The correlation is positive and linear to everyone’s surprise, meaning that the more they earn (and the more they pay into the healthcare budget) the more they get out of it in healthcare spending on them. Graph: 

It is difficult to even make up an assumption hypothesis about the causes of such an surprising result. Everyone would expect that poor health resulting from poverty would turn into more health issues and thus more public healthcare spending – but either poor people are bad at obtaining medical attention or the system is really bad at providing it to them. Or both.

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