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Mental health and choice between managed care and indemnity health insurance
Am J Psychiatry 1995;152:1020-1025.
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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: Populations enrolled in various health insurance plans may differ in their health care needs. Whether mental health affects choice among competing health plans is not clear. This study examined self- selection by participants in a Swiss indemnity insurance plan that was transformed into a managed care organization that controlled access to specialists through gatekeeping and restricted coverage for psychiatric treatments. METHOD: Information regarding past use of health services and health status was provided by 421 persons who joined the new managed care organization and 222 nonjoiners. The mental health and somatic health characteristics of these two groups were compared. RESULTS: In the year preceding the creation of the managed care organization, the nonjoiners had made on average 2.3 more visits to psychiatrists than the joiners but 0.0 to 0.6 more visits to other physicians. The nonjoiners were more likely to have used psychoactive medications but not other medications. The rates of treatment for depression were similar in the two groups. The joiners reported significantly lower mental health status, but not somatic health status, than the nonjoiners. CONCLUSIONS: Both mental health status and past use of mental health services strongly affected choice of health insurance plan. The effects of somatic health and use of somatic health services on selection were consistently weaker. People who join managed care organizations may have substantial uncovered needs for psychiatric care. Minimum mandatory benefits for mental health care may be an effective countermeasure to unequitable self-selection.

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