Social health insurance, healthcare utilization, and costs in middle-aged and elderly community-dwelling adults in China

Zhonghua Wang, Xiangjun Li, Mingsheng Chen*, Lei Si

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Although many studies have analyzed health insurance worldwide, most focus on whole populations rather than specific vulnerable groups. There is a lack of studies that compare different schemes. This paper evaluates the impact of different types of social health insurance and other associated factors on healthcare utilization and costs among middle-aged and elderly Chinese adults. Methods: Data were obtained from a nationally representative middle-aged and elderly household survey, the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study, which was conducted in 2015. Middle-aged and elderly are defined as people who are ≥45 years. Descriptive statistics were used to show the prevalence of each variable. Both logistic and multiple linear regression models were used to evaluate the association between healthcare utilization/healthcare costs and health insurance in addition to other related factors. Results: Although the rapid expansion of social health insurance coverage has significantly improved the healthcare utilization among middle-aged and elderly adults, the difference between three schemes is large. Urban Employee Medical Insurance (UEMI) has had a greater effect in improving healthcare utilization than New Cooperative Medical Insurance (NCMI) or Urban Resident Medical Insurance (URMI). Unification of health insurance programs and optimization of health resource allocations should be a practical way to alleviate healthcare utilization inequality across schemes. People having social health insurance spend more on total and out-of-pocket (OOP) healthcare costs than people not covered by social health insurance, suggesting that enrollment in social health insurance induces significant increases in both total and OOP healthcare expenses. UEMI for the urban employed has relatively higher funding criteria and reimbursement rate, which makes the greatest extent to induce increase in healthcare costs. Some demographic or socioeconomic factors significantly affect healthcare utilization and costs among middle-aged and elderly adults. Conclusion: Our study demonstrates the differences in healthcare utilization and costs between those with and without social health insurance and between those with different health insurance schemes. Policy efforts should further focus on adjusting social health insurance and optimizing healthcare resource allocation in order to enhance effective utilization of healthcare services and control cost increases among middle-aged and elderly adults.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright The Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • China
  • Healthcare utilization
  • Middle-aged and elderly adults
  • Social health insurance


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