Copayment rates affect disease management to a financial detriment for all

There is a high cost to delaying treatment to those with chronic disease, and the more people avoid the doctor to save money, the more money ultimately is spent on hospital bills and intense treatments, concludes a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study, which looked at 900,000 Medicare patients from 2001 to 2006, found that those with increased copayments had almost 20 fewer annual outpatient visits and 2.2 more annual hospital admissions with 13.4 more inpatient days per 100 beneficiaries.

The rise in copayments went to $14.38 from $7.38 for primary care, and $22.05 from $12.66 for specialty visits. The current study focused on Medicare patients, and found that the avoidance seemed strong among people living in low-income areas, and for those with high blood pressure, diabetes or a history of heart attack, among other groups.

"Increasing copayments for ambulatory care among elderly patients may have adverse health consequences and may increase spending for health care," the study reads.

To learn more:
- check out the full New England Journal of Medicine study