The impacts of health insurance on health care utilization among the older people in China

Soc Sci Med. 2013 May:85:59-65. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.02.037. Epub 2013 Mar 5.


In an effort to solve the problems that exist in the current health care system, the Chinese government has announced three different types of health insurance programs. We examine the impacts of these programs (Urban Employee Basic Medical Insurance (UEBMI), Urban Resident Basic Medical Insurance (URBMI), and New Cooperative Medical Scheme (NCMS)) on health care utilization among older people in two provinces of China - Zhejiang and Gansu. The data comes from the pilot survey of the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) collected in 2008, which contains 2685 individuals in 1570 households. We use a two-part model to analyze outpatient care. The first part is a binary equation modeling the probability of any use of outpatient service; For the second part, we use a zero-truncated Poisson model and a generalized linear model with a gamma distribution and a log link to explain the number of outpatient visits and the level of out-of-pocket (OOP) payments conditional on at least one visit to a service provider, respectively. For the inpatient care, the logistic regression is employed to predict the probability of being hospitalized. All analyses are weighted and marginal effects are reported. We find that compared with people without health insurance, people with UEBMI and URBMI are more likely to use outpatient services and people with UEBMI have less OOP payments in Zhejiang while in Gansu province, people with NCMS are less likely to have outpatient visits, while people with UEBMI are more likely to be hospitalized. In addition, among those who have at least one outpatient visit, different insurance types do not make much difference in terms of the number of outpatient visits in both provinces. Our study indicates that although the health insurance programs have some positive impacts on the health care utilization, these impacts are still limited.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care / economics
  • Ambulatory Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • China
  • Delivery of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Financing, Personal / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Probability
  • Program Evaluation