This paper describes the main healthcare rationing policies implemented in Spain over the last 2 decades, and analyses the consequences of these policies on the healthcare system, patients, healthcare practitioners, the pharmaceutical industry and policymakers. The primary explicit healthcare rationing policies utilised in Spain include a catalogue that defines the healthcare rights of citizens. However, the existing system may lead to inequity between regions, and is not structured to direct resources towards the most cost-effective options. Health technology assessment requires further work before it can be utilised widely for the development of rationing strategies. Selective reimbursement of drugs and drug co-payments provide only short-term results and appear to have little long-term impact on expenditure. Implicit rationing instruments, especially waiting lists, have had a significant effect on healthcare quality and the welfare of citizens, and have contributed to keeping the Spanish healthcare budget under control. Newer regulations should integrate some form of economic evaluation within the policy-making processes associated with healthcare. Further research is needed to identify those efficient and equitable rationing instruments that are most likely to improve health interventions for an aging society that is increasingly demanding of health services.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/rosa_rodriguez-monguio/15/