The effect of private health insurance on medical care utilization and self-assessed health in Germany

In Germany, employees are generally obliged to participate in the public health insurance system, where coverage is universal, co-payments and deductibles are moderate, and premia are based on income. However, they may buy private insurance instead if their income exceeds the compulsory insurance threshold. Here, premia are based on age and health, individuals may choose to what extent they are covered, and deductibles and co-payments are common. In this paper, we estimate the effect of private insurance coverage on the number of doctor visits, the number of nights spent in a hospital and self-assessed health. Variation in income around the compulsory insurance threshold provides a natural experiment that weexploit to control for selection into private insurance. We document that income is measured with error and suggest an approach to take this into account. We find negative effects of private insurance coverage on the number of doctor visits, no effects on the number of nights spent in a hospital, and positive effects on health.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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