Social Connections and Public Healthcare Utilization
43 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2017 Last revised: 27 Feb 2018
Date Written: February 26, 2018
Use of tertiary healthcare by socially proximate peers helps individuals learn about program and treatment procedures, signals that using such care is socially appropriate, and can support use of formal healthcare, all of which could increase program utilization. Using complete administrative data on claims from a publicly financed tertiary care program in India, we estimate that the elasticity of first-time claims with respect to utilization by members of "naturally" occurring caste peers within the village is 0.046, with negligible effects of individuals who are not in the same caste group. Use by social connections is associated with 3.2% lower in-patient care expenditures. We find support for an information channel as peers increase awareness of the program and its features, and have the strongest influence on utilization of complex procedures (oncology, poly-trauma, and cardiology) and while using private hospitals. Connections are most effective among men and in dense urban areas, consistent with information from social groups complementing that from formal sources.
Keywords: Non-Communicable Diseases, Healthcare Utilization, Social Connections, Peer Effects, Caste, India
JEL Classification: H51, I13, I15, I18, O12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation