Patient responsiveness to a differential deductible: empirical results from The Netherlands
European Journal of Health Economics (HEPAC)
Health insurers may use financial incentives to encourage their enrollees to choose preferred providers for medical treatment. Empirical evidence whether differences in cost-sharing rates across providers affects patient choice behavior is, especially from Europe, limited. This paper examines the effect of a differential deductible to steer patient provider choice in a Dutch regional market for varicose veins treatment. Using individual patients’ choice data and information about their out-of-pocket payments covering the year of the experiment and 1 year before, we estimate a conditional logit model that explicitly controls for pre-existing patient preferences. Our results suggest that in this natural experiment designating preferred providers and waiving the deductible for enrollees using these providers significantly influenced patient choice. The average cross-price elasticity of demand is found to be 0.02, indicating that patient responsiveness to the cost-sharing differential itself was low. Unlike fixed cost-sharing differences, the deductible exemption was conditional on the patient’s other medical expenses occurring in the policy year. The differential deductible did, therefore, not result in a financial benefit for patients with annual costs exceeding their total deductible.