As old-age pensions continue to expand around the world in response to population ageing, policymakers increasingly wish to understand their impact on healthcare demand. In this paper, we examine the effects of supplemental income to older adults on healthcare use patterns, expenditures and insurance uptake in Yucatan, Mexico.
We use a longitudinal survey for individuals aged 70 or older and an individual fixed-effects difference-in-difference approach to understand the effect of an income supplement on healthcare use patterns, out-of-pocket expenditures and health insurance uptake patterns.
The implementation of the old-age pension was associated with increased use of healthcare with nuanced effects on the type of care. Old-age pensions increase the use of formal healthcare by 15 percentage points (95% CI 6.1 to 23.9) for those with healthcare use at baseline and by 7.5 percentage points (95% CI 3.7 to 11.3) for those without healthcare use at baseline. We find no evidence of greater out-of-pocket expenditures, likely because old-age pensions were associated with a 4.2 percentage point (95% CI 1.5 to 6.9) increase in use of public health insurance.
Old-age pensions can shift healthcare demand towards formal services and eliminate financial barriers to basic care. Pension benefits can also increase the uptake of insurance programmes. These results demonstrate how social programmes can complement each other This highlights the potential role of old-age pensions in achieving universal health coverage for individuals at older ages.
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