China's Medical Savings Accounts

An Analysis of the Price Elasticity of Demand for Health Care

Published in: The European Journal of Health Economics, 2016

Posted on RAND.org on October 18, 2016

by Hao Yu

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Although medical savings accounts (MSAs) have drawn intensive attention across the world for their potential in cost control, there is limited evidence of their impact on the demand for health care. This paper is intended to fill that gap. First, we built up a dynamic model of a consumer's problem of utility maximization in the presence of a nonlinear price schedule embedded in an MSA. Second, the model was implemented using data from a 2-year MSA pilot program in China. The estimated price elasticity under MSAs was between -0.42 and -0.58, i.e., higher than that reported in the literature. The relatively high price elasticity suggests that MSAs as an insurance feature may help control costs. However, the long-term effect of MSAs on health costs is subject to further analysis.

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