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Does a mandatory telemedicine call prior to visiting a physician reduce costs or simply attract good risks?

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  • Chantal Grandchamp
  • Lucien Gardiol

Abstract

This paper aims to estimate empirically the efficiency of a Swiss telemedicine service introduced in 2003. We used claims' data gathered by a major Swiss health insurer, over a period of six years and involving 160 000 insured adults. In Switzerland, health insurance is mandatory, but everyone has the option of choosing between a managed care plan and a fee-for-service plan. The present paper focuses on a conventional fee-for-service plan including a mandatory access to a telemedicine service; the insured are obliged to phone this medical call centre prior to visiting a physician. This type of plan generates much lower average health expenditures than a conventional insurance plan. Reasons for this may include selection, incentive effects or simply efficiency. In our sample, about 90% of the difference in health expenditure can be explained by selection and incentive effects. The remaining 10% of savings due to the efficiency of the telemedicine service amount to about SFr 150 per year per insured, of which approx. 60% is saved by the insurer and 40% by the insured. While the plan is cost-effective, the big winners are the insured who not only save monetary and non-monetary costs, but also benefit from reduced premiums.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Lausanne, Institute of Health Economics and Management (IEMS) in its series Working Papers with number 0801.

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Length: 21 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hem:wpaper:0801

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Keywords: health; insurance; selection; efficiency; telemedicine;

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  1. David M. Cutler & Richard J. Zeckhauser, 1999. "The Anatomy of Health Insurance," NBER Working Papers 7176, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Lucien Gardiol & Pierre-Yves Geoffard & Chantal Grandchamp, 2005. "Separating selection and incentive effects in health insurance," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590713, HAL.
  3. David M. Cutler & Sarah Reber, 1996. "Paying for Health Insurance: The Tradeoff between Competition and Adverse Selection," NBER Working Papers 5796, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Martin Schellhorn, 2001. "The effect of variable health insurance deductibles on the demand for physician visits," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(5), pages 441-456.
  5. Cardon, James H & Hendel, Igal, 2001. "Asymmetric Information in Health Insurance: Evidence from the National Medical Expenditure Survey," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(3), pages 408-27, Autumn.
  6. Cameron, A C & P. K. Trivedi & Frank Milne & J. Piggott, 1988. "A Microeconometric Model of the Demand for Health Care and Health Insurance in Australia," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(1), pages 85-106, January.
  7. Jaeun Shin & Sangho Moon, 2007. "Do Hmo Plans Reduce Health Care Expenditure In The Private Sector?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 45(1), pages 82-99, 01.
  8. Manning, Willard G, et al, 1987. "Health Insurance and the Demand for Medical Care: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 251-77, June.
  9. Partha Deb & Chenghui Li & Pravin K. Trivedi & David M. Zimmer, 2006. "The effect of managed care on use of health care services: results from two contemporaneous household surveys," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(7), pages 743-760.
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