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

  • Chantal Grandchamp
  • Lucien Gardiol

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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Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Health Economics.

Volume (Year): 20 (2011)
Issue (Month): 10 (October)
Pages: 1257-1267

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Handle: RePEc:wly:hlthec:v:20:y:2011:i:10:p:1257-1267
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/jhome/5749

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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. 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.
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  5. Lucien Gardiol & Pierre-Yves Geoffard & Chantal Grandchamp, 2005. "Separating selection and incentive effects in health insurance," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590713, HAL.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
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