This paper provides empirical evidence on how the relationship between health expenditure and health outcomes varies across countries at different income levels.
Heterogeneity and cross-section dependence were controlled for in the panel data which consist of 161 countries over the period 1995–2014. Infant, under-five and maternal mortality along with life expectancy at birth were selected as health outcome measures. Cross-sectional augmented IPS unit root, panel autoregressive distributed lag, Dumitrescu-Hurlin and Toda-Yamamoto approach to Granger causality tests were used to investigate the relationship across four income groups. An impulse response function modelled the impact on health outcomes of negative shocks to health expenditure.
The results indicate that the health expenditure and health outcome link is stronger for low-income compared to high-income countries. Moreover, rising health expenditure can reduce child mortality but has an insignificant relationship with maternal mortality at all income levels. Lower-income countries are more at risk of adverse impact on health because of negative shocks to health expenditure. Variations in child mortality are better explained by rising health expenditure than maternal mortality. However, the estimated results showed dissimilarity when different assumptions and methods were used.
The influence of health expenditure on health outcome varies significantly across different income levels except for maternal health. Policymakers should recognize that increasing spending has a minute potential to improve maternal health. Lastly, the results vary significantly due to income level, choice of assumptions (homogeneity, cross-section independence) and estimation techniques used. Therefore, findings of the cross-country panel studies should be interpreted with cautions.