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Open Access Open Badges Research

Vertical equity of healthcare in Taiwan: health services were distributed according to need

Shiow-Ing Wang1* and Chih-Liang Yaung2

Author Affiliations

1 National Environmental Health Research Center, National Health Research Institutes, Miaoli County, Taiwan

2 Department of Healthcare Administration, College of Health Science, Asia University, Taichung, Taiwan

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International Journal for Equity in Health 2013, 12:12  doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-12

Published: 31 January 2013



To test the hypothesis that the distribution of healthcare services is according to health need can be achieved under a rather open access system.


The 2001 National Health Interview Survey of Taiwan and National Health Insurance claims data were linked in the study. Health need was defined by self-perceived health status. We used Concentration index to measure need-related inequality in healthcare utilization and expenditure.


People with greater health need received more healthcare services, indicating a pro-need character of healthcare distribution, conforming to the meaning of vertical equity. For outpatient service, subjects with the highest health need had higher proportion of ever use in a year than those who had the least health need and consumed more outpatient visits and expenditures per person per year. Similar patterns were observed for emergency services and hospitalization. The concentration indices of utilization for outpatient, emergency services, and hospitalization suggest that the distribution of utilization was related to health need, whereas the preventive service was less related to need.


The universal coverage plus healthcare networking system makes it possible for healthcare to be utilized according to need. Taiwan’s experience can serve as a reference for health reform.