GCR: Health

Cover of GCR: Health

Every year, the world spends more than US $3 trillion on health services, most of which is financed by taxpayers. These large flows of funds are an attractive target for abuse. The stakes are high and the resources precious: money lost to corruption could be used to buy medicines, equip hospitals or hire badly needed medical staff.

The diversity of health systems worldwide, the multiplicity of parties involved, the paucity of good record keeping in many countries, and the complexity in distinguishing among corruption, inefficiency and honest mistakes make it difficult to determine the overall costs of corruption in this sector around the globe. But the scale of corruption is vast in both rich and poor countries. In the United States, which spends more on health care – 15.3 per cent of its GDP – than any other industrialised nation, the two largest US public health care programmes, Medicare and Medicaid, estimate that 5–10 per cent of their budget is lost to ‘overpayment’. In Cambodia, health practitioners interviewed for the Global Corruption Report 2006 estimate that more than 5 per cent of the health budget is lost to corruption before it even leaves central government.