In China, Health Care Utilization Increases at Retirement, a New Study Shows.

Everywhere you look, civilizations across the globe are becoming older at an alarming rate. The difficulties of caring for the elderly, as well as the demographic shift, are two of the most pressing concerns of our day. In addition to straining public budgets and current forms of social assistance, an aging population has an impact on economic development and has the potential to alter illness patterns and prevalence. As a result, several nations are considering policy reforms to their retirement, pension, and health-care systems, among other things. China, which is seeing a rapid increase in the number of aging cohorts, is no exception.

Chinese authorities have considered increasing retirement ages and making commensurate adjustments to social health insurance and pension policies in order to relieve the strain on public resources caused by the care of the older population. In order to better assess such retirement changes and offer data to guide policy in China and other countries, a new research has been conducted that investigates the impact of retirement on health care use. To investigate the impact of retirement on outpatient and inpatient care utilization, the study’s co-authors, which include Karen Eggleston, director of the Asia Health Policy Program at APARC, use administrative data from medical claims for over 80,000 insured adults in a megacity in eastern China to examine the effect of retirement on outpatient and inpatient care utilization. In this instance, urban employee insurance beneficiaries are eligible for a lower patient cost-sharing rate when they reach retirement. Because it is based on a relatively well-insured population with comprehensive administrative data on insurance plan design and overall resource use at retirement, the study contributes new evidence about mechanisms such as the reduced cost of health care out-of-pocket, the opportunity cost of time, and the interaction of these demand-side factors with supply-side incentives. Eggleston and her colleagues published their results in the journal Health Economics, which you can read more about here.

Annual health care usage rises substantially in this relatively well-insured group after retirement, mainly as a result of more intense use of outpatient treatment beyond the age of 65. The decrease in the patient cost-sharing rate, the reduction in time restrictions associated with retirement, and the interplay of these variables with supply-side incentives, such as the prescription of antibiotics, are all contributing to the rise in outpatient care. When it comes to inpatient care, there has been no indication of a difference. In all income categories, the economics of medical spending increase and its relationship with population aging is of significant policy significance. Our results may be helpful information for politicians in other cities in China and abroad who are seeking to enhance insurance coverage and manage medical expenditure for growing older populations, as well as for policymakers in other countries.

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n elderly Chinese man pushes an elderly woman in a wheelchair through a local shopping mall in Beijing, China
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