Predicting Future Utilization Using Self-Reported Health and Health Conditions in a Longitudinal Cohort Study: Implications for Health Insurance Decision Support

Abigail R. Barker, Karen E. Joynt Maddox, Ellen Peters, Kristine Huang, Mary C. Politi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Decision support techniques and online algorithms aim to help individuals predict costs and facilitate their choice of health insurance coverage. Self-reported health status (SHS), whereby patients rate their own health, could improve cost-prediction estimates without requiring individuals to share personal health information or know about undiagnosed conditions. We compared the predictive accuracy of several models: (1) SHS only, (2) a “basic” model adding health-related variables, and (3) a “full” model adding measures of healthcare access. The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey was used to predict 2015 health expenditures from 2014 data. Relative performance was assessed by comparing adjusted-R2 values and by reporting the predictive accuracy of the models for a new cohort (2015–2016 data). In the SHS-only model, those with better SHS were less likely to incur expenditures. However, after accounting for health variables, those with better SHS were more likely to incur expenses. In the full model, SHS was no longer predictive of incurring expenses. Variables indicating better access to care were associated with higher likelihood of spending and higher spending. The full model (R2 = 0.290) performed slightly better than the basic model (R2 = 0.240), but neither performed well at the upper tail of the cost distribution. While our SHS-based models perform well in the aggregate, predicting population-level risk well, they are not sufficiently accurate to guide individuals’ insurance shopping decisions in all cases. Policies that rely heavily on health insurance consumers making individually optimal choices cannot assume that decision tools can accurately anticipate high costs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInquiry (United States)
Volume58
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 12 2021

Keywords

  • cohort studies
  • decision support techniques
  • health
  • health expenditures
  • health status
  • healthcare utilization
  • insurance
  • policy
  • self-report

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