The equity of medical services utilization for elderly individuals enrolled in different basic social medical insurance systems holds significant meaning for social harmony against a background of demographic aging and a growing wealth gap in China. This study is to explore the equity of the three medical insurance systems in southwest China with the aim of providing recommendations for relevant policy.
A total of 9600 elderly people insured through basic social medical insurance were selected and interviewed with a questionnaire. This study used a binary logistic regression model to investigate the effect of household income for medical services utilization and adopted a concentration index to measure the inequity of medical services utilization among elderly participants enrolled in different medical insurance categories.
Outpatient services utilization was almost identical in the different insurance systems (78.5%, 77.7% and 78.6%). There were no statistically significant differences according to income level in the Urban Employee Basic Medical Insurance (UEBMI) and Urban Resident Basic Medical Insurance (URBMI) programs, but in the New Cooperative Medical Scheme (NCMS), higher-income groups tended to utilize more services. The corresponding concentration index (CI) values were 0.0162, 0.0173 and 0.0179 respectively. The NCMS showed a lower hospitalization rate than UEBMI and URBMI (17.7% vs 24.2% and 24.9%). The higher income group utilized hospitalization more, regardless of the insurance system. The corresponding CI values were 0.0817, 0.0605 and 0.0319 respectively.
The equity of medical services utilization for elderly exist in all three health insurance systems, in particular, the inequities in utilization of hospitalization were more severe than outpatient services. UEBMI and URBMI were better than NCMS in the equity of outpatient services. Although NCMS was more equitable than URBMI and UEBMI in terms of hospitalization, this was based on “overall low utilization of hospitalization regardless of income levels” in NCMS compared with URBMI and UEBMI. The disparities of the three basic social medical insurance systems should be eliminated. For low-income residents, specific insurance policies including reducing deductible, covering more medical service and increasing reimbursement ratio could be considered.