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Free for Children? Patient Cost-sharing and Healthcare Utilization

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  • Toshiaki Iizuka
  • Hitoshi Shigeoka

Abstract

This study exploits over 5,000 variations in subsidy generosity across ages and municipalities in Japan to examine how children respond to healthcare prices. We find that free care significantly increases outpatient spending, with price elasticities considerably smaller than for adults. Price responses are substantially larger when small copayments are introduced, indicating more elastic demand around a zero price. We also find that increased utilization primarily reflects low-value and costly care: increased outpatient spending neither reduces subsequent hospitalization by “avoidable” conditions nor improves short- or medium-term health outcomes. By contrast, inappropriate use of antibiotics and costly after-hours visits increase.

Suggested Citation

  • Toshiaki Iizuka & Hitoshi Shigeoka, 2018. "Free for Children? Patient Cost-sharing and Healthcare Utilization," NBER Working Papers 25306, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25306
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    Cited by:

    1. Shen, Menghan & He, Wen & Li, Linyan, 2020. "Incentives to use primary care and their impact on healthcare utilization: Evidence using a public health insurance dataset in China," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 255(C).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • I13 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Insurance, Public and Private
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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