An international comparison of hospital efficiency: does institutional environment matter?
The consensus among many health economists is that no meaningful performance differences exist among for-profit and non-profit hospitals in the US, but this topic has continued to be a matter of academic, judicial, and public policy interest. A similar debate has ensued internationally, regarding the potential efficiency gains from privatization of public enterprises. In this paper, we examine empirical evidence from the public, highly regulated Norwegian hospital sector and the private, highly competitive and unregulated California hospital sector to ascertain whether institutional environment and level of market competition significantly affect the degree of productive efficiency in hospitals. We compare and discuss the productive efficiency of four similar sets of hospitals operating in different institutional and competitive environments. The four samples are carefully matched in the dimensions of sample size, hospital size, and average lengths of stay. Heterogeneity in output definition is used to control for other dimensions (casemix, age distribution of patients). We use Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) to estimate and compare average long-run as well as short-run efficiency measures across groups. We find that scale and scope regulation of Norwegian hospitals improves long-run efficiency, primarily due to better utilization of capital.