This paper presents a critical evaluation of several theories of accountability and their applicability to health care concerns. The authors first provide a preliminary refinement of the imprecise concept of accountability itself and then examine four major types (political; bureaucratic; professional; and economic-consumer). Then, by using disciplinary perspectives provided by several schools of thought in political science (legislative supremacy; general manager theory; government by bureaucracy; objective responsibility; citizen participation), they discuss the degree of accountability presently found in various American health policies. After identifying the inherent dilemmas within any credible accountability approach to health care programs as now utilized in the United States, the authors recommend that all types of accountability be integrated and strengthened by relying more explicitly on practices characteristic of development administration.

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