Many social systems rely on a waiting list (rather than price) as a rationing device. We present a model of the waiting list for elective surgery in the British National Health Service. Waiting time is allowed to influence both supply of and demand for surgery. The resulting models of supply and demand are estimated empirically using over 4000 observations. The results indicate low elasticity of demand with respect to waiting time, suggesting that increased resources may reduce waiting times without greatly stimulating utilization. The policy implications are important for the British national government when choosing the level of public expenditure to be devoted to health care. © 1999 Elsevier Science S.A. All rights reserved.
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