Consumer channeling by health insurers: Natural experiments with preferred providers in the Dutch pharmacy market
Health Economics , Volume 17 - Issue 3 p. 299- 316
Consumer channeling is an important element in the insurer-provider bargaining process. Health insurers can influence provider choice by offering insurance contracts with restricted provider networks. Alternatively, they can offer contracts with unrestricted access and use incentives to motivate consumers to visit preferred providers. Little is known, however, about the effectiveness of this alternative strategy of consumer channeling. Using data from two natural experiments in the Dutch pharmacy market, we examine how consumers respond to incentives used by health insurers to influence their choice of provider. We find that consumers are sensitive to rather small incentives and that temporary incentives may sort a long-term effect on provider choice. In addition, we find that both consumer and provider characteristics determine whether consumers are willing to switch to preferred pharmacies.