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Comparing Apples to Oranges? Overcoming Typological Biases to Better Classify Healthcare Systems Globally

Latin America
Social Policy
Welfare State
Gabriela De Carvalho
Universität Bremen
Gabriela De Carvalho
Universität Bremen

Abstract

The present study explores the role of classification and typologies as an analytical device in understanding both the theoretical and empirical manifestations of healthcare systems globally. In a first step, we explore the relative benefits and limits of different classificatory logics – inductive vs. deductive – before conducting a brief review of scholarship on healthcare system classifications. We argue that, in order to capture the role of global actors (international organizations, donor countries etc.) in low-to-upper-middle income economies, classificatory systems must account for potential territorial shifts across the dimensions of financing, service provision and regulation defining all healthcare systems. In its absence, we argue, comparative research involving countries of significantly different levels of economic development becomes obfuscated. In an effort to redress this gap in the literature, we lay out how state, societal, market and global actors feature in different dimensions of healthcare systems, putting forth a deductively derived and actor-centered typology of healthcare systems.