Study Assesses Knowledge of Health Care Costs, Utilization

Knowledge of costs is associated with more frequent utilization of doctor's office visits
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- Individuals who have more knowledge about their copayments for visits to the doctor and the emergency department appear to behave in a more cost-efficient manner, with fewer emergency department visits and more office visits, according to research published in the April issue of the American Journal of Managed Care.

Amy M. Lischko, of the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, and James F. Burgess Jr., Ph.D., of the VA Boston Healthcare System, analyzed data from surveyed state employees and their dependents or family members. The final sample consisted of 3,220 people. They also accessed a database of all medical claims for the study participants.

The researchers found that 62 percent of the respondents correctly remembered the percentage of the premium they paid, 67 percent gave the correct copayment for a doctor's visit, and roughly half correctly reported the copayment for a visit to the emergency department. Better knowledge of overall health care costs was associated with greater use of office visits. They also found that younger, lower-income, less educated employees recalled their copayment more accurately than older, higher-income, more educated employees.

"It could be that people who are very knowledgeable about health care costs also are more engaged in their overall health care and thus use more care, as indicated by higher office visit utilization. Moreover, people who use more outpatient care are likely to have a regular and trusted source for that care and thus do not seek emergency department care as often," the authors write.

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