Non-linear price schedules, demand for health care and response behavior
When health insurance reforms involve non-linear price schedules tied to payment periods (for example, a quarter or a year), the empirical analysis of its effects has to take the within-period time structure of incentives into account. The analysis is further complicated when demand data are obtained from a survey in which the reporting period does not coincide with the payment period. We illustrate these issues using as an example a health care reform in Germany which imposed a perquarter fee of e10 for doctor visits and additionally set an out-of-pocket maximum. This co-payment structure results in an effective "spot" price for a doctor visit which decreases over time within each payment period. Using this variation, we find a substantial effect of the new fee, in contrast to earlier studies of this reform. Overall, the probability of visiting a physician decreased by around 2.5 percentage points in response to the new fee for doctor visits. We verify the key assumptions of our approach using a separate data set of insurance claims in which the reporting period effects are absent by construction.
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