7/20/2015 feature story
Dean Yang examines how information and subsidies work together to encourage low- and medium-income Detroiters to engage in preventive health care.
Use of preventive care in Michigan is fundamental to ensuring health for residents and to minimizing healthcare costs for consumers, insurers, and the government. This randomized field experiment in the metro-Detroit area is intended to answer three research questions: (1) What are the barriers to accessing preventive health care in Michigan, and how do they vary with demographic characteristics? (2) What are the impacts of information and incentives on individuals' take-up of preventive health care, and can inducing an endowment effect be a low-cost way to increase usage of preventive health care? (3) What are the short- and medium-run impacts of incentivizing preventive health screenings on individuals' health care usage? Our sample consists of adults living in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods in the metro Detroit area. We measure the effectiveness of (1) providing information about where to obtain low-cost health screenings and (2) offering $10 and $50 subsidies to encourage people to obtain health screenings at a nearby health clinic. Among those offered a subsidy to obtain a health screening, some receive a coupon card for the subsidy offer, while others receive an inactive gift card. While both cards will help individuals remember to use the subsidy, the gift card endows the participant with the subsidy. Failing to activate a gift card may be seen as a loss, which is theorized to be more painful than missing out on an equivalent gain. In this case, we aim to measure the cost effectiveness of endowment effects to promote the use of subsidies. Nine months after the initial study, a follow-up survey will measure the medium-run impacts on healthcare usage. The results of this project will provide insights into the nature and magnitude of barriers to preventive care and inform ways to increase health screenings among a diverse population of Michigan residents.
Dean Yang, Yusuf Can Masatlioglu
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