A Cross-Sectional Analysis of the Utilisation of GP Services in Ireland: 1987-2001
This paper examines the determinants of general practitioner (GP) utilisation patterns in Ireland over the period 1987-2001. Using three different micro-data sets, the influence of socio-economic factors as well as health status variables on the demand for GP visits is analysed. A particular focus of this paper is an examination of the impact of economic incentives as represented by medical card eligibility. While medical cardholders are entitled to free GP consultations, nonmedical cardholders must pay for each visit. In addition, it is important to analyse the impact of the 1989 change in the reimbursement system for GPs with medical cardholder patients from fee for service to capitation. A variety of cross-sectional econometric methodologies are considered with the two-step hurdle negative binomial model found to be the most appropriate. The empirical results confirm the results of earlier studies about the effects of socio-economic characteristics such as age, sex and income on GP utilisation patterns and also confirm the highly significant effects of health status. While medical card eligibility is consistently positive and significant across the years of our analysis (1987, 1995, 2000, 2001), there is no evidence to show that this effect diminished in importance between 1987 and 1995.
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