This article on hospital planning programs in France and North-Rhine Westfalia (a state in the Federal Republic of Germany), assembles information on the formal building blocks of inter-organizational relations in the formulation and implementation process. Because these planning programs are embedded in past social policy developments and institution-building, it is necessary to first compare the two countries' compulsory health insurance schemes. This is followed by a general profile of each health care system. A third section examines the formulation and implementation of the countries' hospital planning programs and participation patterns. Based on this comparison, inferences are drawn that are relevant to policy and research.

The analysis yields three major conclusions. First, despite abundant legal and administrative controls at the disposal of central health bureaucracies, the capability of the national leadership to influence the hospital system through innovative planning is limited by jurisdictional, institutional, functional and territorial fragmentation, and differentiation of control and public responsibility in health. However, the diverse goal orientations of participants may provide the necessary tension to allow for some change in otherwise highly structured political and administrative systems. Second, despite differences in historical, political and administrative developments, the decision making systems for health care policies in France and the Federal Republic, with the exception of health insurance, are strikingly similar to the fragmented decision making system in the United States. Third, the effect of government-mandated participation is empirically uncertain. Opening up the circle of participants seems to have reinforced alliances between public bureaucracies and corporate vested interests. Hospital planning continues to be carried out for rather than with the consumer and citizen. Hospital planning which is a mixture of goal and process-oriented planning does not change the basic orientation of health care systems, which are disease-oriented, and hospital- centered.

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