Knowledge of Cost Sharing and Decisions to Seek Care

April 7, 2010

Educating employees about their cost-sharing responsibilities could lead to more efficient use of the healthcare system.

Objectives: To assess knowledge and understanding of cost-sharing responsibilities and whether that knowledge and understanding influence actual and perceived use of healthcare services.

Study Design: A 3000-person random sample was drawn from a state employee database in Massachusetts.

Methods: Survey responses and claims analyses were used to assess knowledge of cost sharing and healthcare utilization over a 3-year study period. Trend models and logistic regression were used.

Results: Nearly two-thirds of respondents (62%) accurately recalled the percentage of premium that they paid; 67% recalled the correct copayment for a doctor’s visit. Younger, less educated, and lower-income employees recalled their copayment more accurately than older, more educated, higher-income colleagues. Half of the respondents accurately reported the copayment amount for an emergency department visit. Greater knowledge of overall healthcare costs was positively associated with higher utilization of office visits (P <.01). Knowledge of specific office visit and emergency department copayments had no significant relationship with utilization. Self-reported delays and reductions in utilization were much more pronounced than the actual claims data indicated.

Conclusions: Employees were reasonably well informed about their cost-sharing responsibilities. Knowledge of costs was associated with higher office visit utilization during the study period. Respondents who were more knowledgeable about their specific copayments for office visits and emergency department visits also were more likely to behave in what appeared to be a more cost-efficient manner, with more office visits and fewer emergency department visits.

(Am J Manag Care. 2010;16(4):298-304)