Waiting for Outpatient Care and Choice in Financing

The researchers examined how increasingly long wait times for medical appointments have resulted in individuals exiting healthcare systems with lengthy waits and paying more to access alternative systems with shorter waits. They explored whether these time/cost tradeoffs affect how individuals choose among healthcare financing options. Specifically, the researchers focused on veterans who receive care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or pay more out-of-pocket to access the Medicare program. The researchers hypothesized that: (1) long waits in local VA facilities will reduce the probability that individuals will use VA healthcare and (2) individuals with greater resources, as compared to individuals with fewer resources, will be more likely to choose more expensive Medicare plans rather than wait for care in the VA. The objective of the study was to inform policymakers, who make decisions on reimbursement rates, how time/cost tradeoffs affect patients’ health care financing choices.