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Channelling consumers towards preferred providers.

Bes, R.E., Wendel, S., Jong, J.D. de. Channelling consumers towards preferred providers. European Journal of Public Health: 2011, 21(suppl. 1) 127-128. Abstract. 4th European Public Health Conference: 'Public Health and Welfare - Welfare Development and Public Health' 9-12 november 2011, Copenhagen.
Background: In the last decades, health care systems in several European countries changed from a supply-oriented system to a demand-oriented system based on managed competition. In a system of managed competition, health insurers play a crucial role. They are allowed to selectively contract providers based on price and quality and channel their consumers towards these preferred providers. In practice, it seems quite difficult for insurers to channel their insured. This however is necessary in order to make the system work. In this paper we explore why consumers are not open to this channelling from their health insurer. We expect trust of consumers in their health insurer to play a key role and therefore we focus on this aspect. Methods: Questionnaires were sent to 6.732 members of the Insurants Panel (response 65,7%). Amongst other questions, respondents were asked if they trust their insurer to select good quality care providers as preferred providers and if they want to choose their own care provider. Results: Preliminary results show that the majority (>60%) of the consumers trust their health insurer to select good quality care providers. However, 85% also indicate that they want to have the option to choose their own care provider. Almost 50% of the respondents are even willing to pay a higher premium in exchange for freedom of choice. The data is now further analysed in more detail. Conclusion/discussion: The results indicate that the majority of consumers trust their health insurer to select good quality care providers as preferred providers. Thus, a lack of trust does not immediately seem to hinder the insurers in channelling their consumers to preferred providers. Yet, consumers still want to have freedom of choice. The problem of channelling insured might thus be a problem of restriction of choice, instead of a problem related to lack of trust. Questions that arise are whether consumers actually turn to their insurer for advice when selecting a care provider and the number of preferred providers an insurer should offer to provide consumers with a feeling of ‘‘choice’’.(aut. ref.)