The preferred doctor scheme: A political reading of a French experiment of Gate-keeping
Study objective: Since January 2005 France is exploring a new scheme termed "preferred doctor" (médecin traitant) which can be considered as an innovative version of Gate Keeping in order to reduce the excess of postulated excess in health consumption, more especially access to specialist care. This paper describes the political process which lead to it's implementation, tries to relate some of the scheme specific features with it's results after one year implementation and tries to catch a glimpse for the next steps of the reform. Material and methods: In order to measure the scheme impact on the "patient treatment pathway" and on physician income, we used a sample of 7198 individual from the 2006 "French health, Health Care and Insurance Survey "(ESPS),"including health, socioeconomic and insurance status and through a set of questions relating to patient's understanding of the scheme and different data bases of the national sickness fund as well as different studies done by regulatory agencies. Results and discussion: First results after one year implementation show that most patients chose a preferred doctor, who in a vast majority happened to be their family doctor. A vast majority of patients also considered the scheme as mandatory. Impact on access to specialist care, as measured through self assessed unmet need for specialist care, appears not negligible, especially for the less well off and those not covered by a complementary insurance. In term of financial impact, the new constraints on access to ambulatory care seem to have been offset by rises in the fee schedules for the specialities which lost direct access We discuss why these short term weak outcomes are linked with a wicked system of the health system governance and to the political and professional context in which the scheme unfolded strongly and determined its structure and implementation pathway. On a more long range perspective, we analyse how the new scheme may nevertheless lead up to reinforced managed care reforms.
Managed Care, Gate keeping, health care services utilization, unmet needs.
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