Patients use fewer care services when asked to pay more

In the environment of ever-increasing healthcare costs and utilization, a Mayo Clinic study found that patients use less unnecessary healthcare when they bear more of the financial responsibility for it.

In 2004, Mayo Clinic's self-funded health plan increased cost-sharing for its employees and their dependents. It added a $25 copayment to specialty care visits and a 10 or 20 percent coinsurance (depending on the option) to imaging, testing, and outpatient procedures.

After the consumer cost-sharing bump, Mayo saw a large drop in the use of diagnostic testing and outpatient procedures over four years, as well as an immediate drop in imaging utilization. Specialists saw a decrease in visits as well, according to the study in the November issue of Health Affairs.

However, Mayo researchers noted that patients did not increase their use of primary care services.

Nevertheless, with physicians delivering at least $6.8 billion in unnecessary care to their patients each year, consumer cost-sharing could be helpful to curbing misplaced health spending.

For more:
- here's the Health Affairs study abstract

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