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Indianapolis School of Law-Indianapolis




U.S. policymakers, scholars, and advocates have long displayed an ideological commitment to exposing insured patients to substantial out-of-pocket expenses. These commitments derive from both overt political ideologies, which favor individual responsibility and oppose redistribution of wealth and risks, as well as more-subtle ideological commitments of academic economists, which link observed patterns of consumption to value-claims about welfare. In this symposium contribution, we document those ideological commitments and juxtapose them with a review of the scientific evidence about the actual effects of patient cost-sharing. We find, as economic theory predicts, that patients exposed to healthcare costs consume less healthcare. However, a fair review of the evidence — including the effects on health outcomes, access to care, and financial insecurity — makes it very hard to conclude that substantial and untailored cost-sharing exposure — as we have seen in actual application — is good social policy. We suggest directions for future study and reform.

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