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Risk Segmentation and Equity in the Chilean Mandatory Health Insurance System

For decades, the Chilean health system has included a requirement for dependent workers to spend a certain percentage of their wages on health insurance. Since 1981, workers have been able to choose between public insurance and several private insurance providers. The reforms introduced more choice, moving away from reliance on an exclusive public provider. By 1999, about half of the country’s active dependent workers had opted out of the public and into the private insurance system. The development of the private insurance system has been accompanied by controversy, however, regarding possible inequities in the utilization of medical services, the degree of risk segmentation, inefficiencies in the system’s operation, and other factors. This paper discusses the issues of risk segmentation and equity. It starts by reviewing the system’s design on a theoretical level, then deriving hypothesis and finally providing empirical evidence regarding these hypothesis. Particular attention is given to the issues of how individuals choose between the public and private system (to determine the reasons behind risk segmentation) and the differences in utilization among the various income groups (to clarify the issue of possible inequities).