Responsibility for Funding Refractive Correction in Publicly Funded Health Care Systems: An Ethical Analysis

Health Care Analysis 29 (1):59-77 (2020)
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Abstract

Allocating on the basis of need is a distinguishing principle in publicly funded health care systems. Resources ought to be directed to patients, or the health program, where the need is considered greatest. In Sweden support of this principle can be found in health care legislation. Today however some domains of what appear to be health care needs are excluded from the responsibilities of the publicly funded health care system. Corrections of eye disorders known as refractive errors is one such domain. In this article the moral legitimacy of this exception is explored. Individuals with refractive errors need spectacles, contact lenses or refractive surgery to do all kinds of thing, including participating in everyday activities, managing certain jobs, and accomplishing various goals in life. The relief of correctable visual impairments fits well into the category of what we typically consider a health care need. The study of refractive errors does belong to the field of medical science, interventions to correct such errors can be performed by medical means, and the skills of registered health care professionals are required when it comes to correcting refractive error. As visual impairments caused by other conditions than refractive errors are treated and funded within the public health care system in Sweden this is an inconsistency that needs to be addressed.

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