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Inquiry. 1996 Fall;33(3):237-46.

Patient choice of physician: do health insurance and physician characteristics matter?

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  • 1Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Rockville, MD 20852, USA.


Generous health insurance coverage is widely believed to have contributed to both high and rising health care costs. This paper tests the hypothesis that better insured patients will demand higher "quality" by choosing more often to visit specialists rather than generalist physicians. We model the conditional decision to seek care from a specialist physician as a function of health insurance status, physician characteristics, and other socioeconomic factors. Analysis of data from the 1987 National Medical Expenditure Survey and the American Medical Association suggests that the presence of insurance coverage does not affect choice of physician. The results do show that people enrolled in health maintenance organizations (HMOs) see specialists less often than other patients.

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