Understanding Government Decisions to De-fund Medical Services Analyzing the Impact of Problem Frames on Resource Allocation Policies
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Many medical services lack robust evidence of effectiveness and may therefore be considered "unnecessary" care. Proactively withdrawing resources from, or de-funding, such services and redirecting the savings to services that have proven effectiveness would enhance overall health system performance. Despite this, governments have been reluctant to discontinue funding of services once funding is in place. The focus of this study is to understand how the framing of an issue or problem influences government decision-making related to de-funding of medical services. To achieve this, a framework describing how problem frames, or explanatory naratives, influence government policy decisions was developed and applied to actual cases. The two cases selected were the Ontario government's decisions to de-fund the drug Oxycontin and blood glucose test strips used by patients with diabetes. A qualitative content analysis of public discourse (political debate and media coverage) surrounding these two resource withdrawal examples was conducted and described using the framework. In the framework, government decision-making is a partial reflection of the visibility of the policy issue and complexity of the causal story told within a problem frame. By applying this framework and considering these two key characteristics of problem frames, we can better understand, and possibly predict, the shape and timing of government policy decisions to withdraw resources from medical services.
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