Does health insurance impact health service utilization among older adults in urban China? A nationwide cross-sectional study.
BACKGROUND: China's rapidly aging population has led to many challenges related to the health care delivery and financing. Since 2007, the Urban Residents Basic Medical Insurance (URBMI) program has provided financial protection for older adults living in urban areas not already covered by other health insurance schemes. We conducted a national level assessment on this population's health needs and health service utilization. METHODS: Records for 9646 individuals over the age of 60 were extracted for analysis from two National Health Service Surveys conducted in 2008 and 2013. Multiple regression models were used to examine associations between socioeconomic factors, health needs and health service utilization while controlling for demographic characteristics and survey year. RESULTS: Self-reported illness, especially non-communicable diseases (NCDs) increased significantly between 2008 and 2013 regardless of insurance enrollment, age group or income level. In 2013, over 75% of individuals reported at least one NCD. Outpatient services decreased for the uninsured but increased for those with insurance. Middle- and high-income groups with insurance experienced a higher increase in outpatient visits and hospital admissions than the low-income group. Forgone hospital admissions (defined as an admission indicated by a doctor but which was declined or not followed through by the patient) decreased. However, over 20% of individuals had to forgo necessary hospital admissions, and 40% of these cases were due to financial barriers. Outpatient visits and hospital admissions increased between 2008 and 2013, and insured individuals utilized more services than those without insurance. CONCLUSION: After the implementation of URBMI, health service utilization increased and forgone hospital admissions decreased, indicating the program helped to improve access to health services. However, there was still a marked difference in utilization among different income groups, with the high-income group experiencing the greatest increase. This factor calls for further attention to be given to issues related to equity. Prevalence of self-reported NCDs greatly increased among the study population between 2008 and 2013, suggesting that health insurance programs need to ensure they cover sufficient support for the treatment and prevention of NCDs.
Mao, W; Zhang, Y; Xu, L; Miao, Z; Dong, D; Tang, S
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