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Commentary |

‘Rationing' Health Care:  Not All Definitions Are Created Equal

Peter A. Ubel, MD; Susan Dorr Goold, MD, MA, MHSA
Arch Intern Med. 1998;158(3):209-214. doi:10.1001/archinte.158.3.209.
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DESPITE consensus among most experts that health care costs need to be contained, there is great controversy about whether it is ever acceptable to ration health care. Part of this controversy results from disagreement about whether health care costs can be adequately contained by eliminating waste, rather than by rationing health care. Another part of this controversy, however, may arise from disagreement about what it means to ration health care. To the extent that this is true, people may have similar views about what health care services ought to be offered to patients, while vehemently disagreeing about the appropriateness of rationing.

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Distinctions among rationing definitions. The vertical line separates medical services that are being limited explicitly vs those limited nonexplicitly. The horizontal line separates absolutely scarce resources from those not absolutely scarce. For a more complete description, see the "Definitions of Rationing" section of the text.

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