Introducing copayments in the emergency department would deter appropriate visits in the Netherlands

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Abstract

Objective

To determine what the effects of introduction of copayments for self-referred emergency department (ED) visits would be in the Netherlands and at what amount patients would turn to a GP before visiting an ED.

Methods

This questionnaire study was carried out in the ED of the Rijnstate Hospital, a community teaching hospital in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, a deductible excess system is in use and this study investigated the effects of a copayment for self-referred patients (SRPs) on top of the deductible excess. A questionnaire was developed and handed out to SRPs.

Results

A total of 433 SRPs were included; their average age was 33.1 years and 63% were male. With a copayment of €100, 47% of SRPs would choose to visit their GP instead of the ED. A further increase in the copayment amount is largely ineffective in reducing the number of self-referred ED visits. The higher the household income and education level and the more urgent the triage category, the larger the copayment patients are willing to pay. There is no significant relation between appropriateness and the amount of copayment that patients are willing to pay and we found no specific copayment level that resulted in reducing mainly inappropriate ED visits.

Conclusion

With a copayment of €100, 47% of the SRPs would choose to visit their GP instead of the ED. There was no specific copayment level that resulted in reducing mainly inappropriate ED visits.

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