Typologies have been central to the comparative turn in public policy and this paper contributes to the debate by assessing the capacity of typologies of health systems to capture the institutional context of health care and to contribute to explaining health policies across countries. Using a recent comparative study of health policy and focusing on the concept of the health care state the paper suggests three things. First, the concept of the health care state holds as a set of ideal types. Second, as such the concept of the health care state provides a useful springboard for analyzing health policy, but one which needs to be complemented by more specific institutional explanations. Third, the concept of the health care state is less applicable to increasingly important, non-medical areas of health policy. Instead, different aspects of institutional context come into play and they can be combined as part of a looser ‘‘organizing framework’’.
Keywords: Comparative research, health policy, assessment, typologies, health systems, health care states.