Policy options to contain healthcare costs: a review and classification

Niek Stadhouders, Xander Koolman, Marit Tanke, Johannes Maarse, Patrick Jeurissen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Containing health care costs has been a challenge for most OECD member states. We classify 2250 cost containment policies in forty-one groups of policy options. This conceptual framework might act as a toolkit for policymakers that seek to develop strategies for cost control; and for researchers that seek to evaluate them. We found that certain important cost drivers such as wages and capital are being sparsely covered. We distinguish four primary targets to contain costs: volume controls, price controls, budgeting and market oriented policies. Price controls and budgeting, both seen as relatively effective, appear substantially less often in literature than volume controls and market oriented policies. The relative use of each option hardly changed over time, although the health system type did matter. Market oriented policies were more likely to be suggested for countries with public provision of health care, as well as for the US system. In contrast, budgeting policy proposals were more likely to be suggested for countries with market provision systems, such as Canada, Germany and France. Implementation of cost containment policies could lead to convergence of health care systems, except for the US system, if policies are implemented based on the literature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)486-494
JournalHealth Policy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


  • Cost containment
  • Conceptual framework
  • Literature review
  • Policy evaluation
  • Health system convergence


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