Catastrophic healthcare expenditure-drivers and protection: the Portuguese case

Christoph Kronenberg, Pedro Pita Barros

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


The objective of this paper is to assess the extent of catastrophic healthcare expenditure, which can lead to impoverishment, even in a country with a National Health Service, such as Portugal. The level of catastrophic healthcare expenditure will be identified before the determinants of these catastrophic payments are analyzed. Afterwards, the effects of existing exemptions to copayments in health care use will be tested and the relationship between catastrophe and impoverishment will be discussed. Catastrophe is calculated from the Portuguese Household Budget Surveys of 2000 and 2005, and then analyzed using logistic regression models. The results show that catastrophe due to healthcare out-of-pocket payments are a sizeable issue in Portugal. Exemptions from out-of-pocket expenses for medical care should be created to prevent vulnerable groups from facing catastrophic healthcare spending. These vulnerable groups include children, people with disabilities and individuals suffering from chronic conditions. Disability proxies offer straightforward policy options for an exemption for the elderly with recognized disabilities. An exemption of retired people with disabilities is therefore recommended to policymakers as it targets a vulnerable group with high risk of facing catastrophic healthcare expenditure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-51
JournalHealth Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Catastrophic health expenditure
  • Healthcare financing
  • Out of pocket payments
  • Portuguese health system
  • Poverty


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