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Healing the Poor: The Influence of Patient Socioeconomic Status on Physician Supply Responses

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  • Alice Chen
  • Darius N. Lakdawalla

Abstract

A longstanding literature explores how altruism affects the way physicians respond to incentives and provide care. We analyze how patient socioeconomic status mediates these responses. We show theoretically that patient socioeconomic status systematically influences the way physicians respond to reimbursement changes, and we identify the channels through which these effects operate. We use two Medicare reimbursement changes to investigate these insights empirically. We confirm that a given physician facing an increase in reimbursement boosts utilization by more when treating richer patients. We show that average supply price elasticities vary from 0.02 to 0.18 for a given physician, depending on the patient’s socioeconomic status. Finally, we show that the Medicare reforms we study led to overall reimbursement increases that raised healthcare utilization by 10% more for high-income patients compared to their low-income peers.

Suggested Citation

  • Alice Chen & Darius N. Lakdawalla, 2016. "Healing the Poor: The Influence of Patient Socioeconomic Status on Physician Supply Responses," NBER Working Papers 21930, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21930
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    Cited by:

    1. Wu, Bingxiao, 2019. "Physician agency in China: Evidence from a drug-percentage incentive scheme," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 140(C), pages 72-89.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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