Health Care Analysis

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 169–177 | Cite as

The Rise of Independent Regulation in Health Care

  • Rui Nunes
  • Guilhermina Rego
  • Cristina Brandão
Original Article


In all countries where health care access is considered a social right, regulation is both a tool of performance improvement as well as an instrument of social justice. Both social (equity in access) and economical (promoting competition) regulation are at stake due to the nature of the good itself. Different modalities of regulation do exist and usually new regulatory cycles include the creation of stronger regulatory agencies. Indeed, health care regulation is rising steadily in most developed countries as a consequence of the introduction of the New Public Management perspective to provide essential public goods.

Health care is delivered by different organisations with very different cultural backgrounds—public and private (profit and non-profit)—that should be accountable for their decisions. Control by regulatory agencies is instrumental to accomplish this goal. However, there is some dispute with regards the degree of regulatory autonomy. The objective of this paper is to determine if independent regulatory agencies (IRAs) are effective in carrying out health care regulation. The authors apply Walshe’s analytical framework to the Regulatory Authority of Health (Portugal) to answer the question if independent regulation works.

In conclusion, the two year experience of the Regulatory Authority of Health is important not only because the primary goals of independent regulation were achieved but also because this authority is now a full partner in the health care sector. However, independent agencies need to develop strong mechanisms of accountability because good regulatory governance is the paradigm of this institutional innovation.


Economic regulation Governance Health care regulation Independent regulatory agencies Social regulation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rui Nunes
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Guilhermina Rego
    • 1
  • Cristina Brandão
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Medicine of the University of PortoPortoPortugal, EU
  2. 2.Former President of the Regulatory Authority of HealthPortoPortugal, EU
  3. 3.Estrada da CircunvalaçãoPortoPortugal, EU

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