Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Hospitals in China are classified into tiers (1, 2 or 3), with the largest (tier 3) having more equipment and specialist staff. Differential health insurance cost-sharing by hospital tier (lower deductibles and higher reimbursement rates in lower tiers) was introduced to reduce overcrowding in higher tier hospitals, promote use of lower tier hospitals, and limit escalating healthcare costs. However, little is known about the effects of differential cost-sharing in health insurance schemes on choice of hospital tiers. METHODS: In a 9-year follow-up of a prospective study of 0.5 M adults from 10 areas in China, we examined the associations between differential health insurance cost-sharing and choice of hospital tiers for patients with a first hospitalisation for stroke or ischaemic heart disease (IHD) in 2009-2017. Analyses were performed separately in urban areas (stroke: n = 20,302; IHD: n = 19,283) and rural areas (stroke: n = 21,130; IHD: n = 17,890), using conditional logit models and adjusting for individual socioeconomic and health characteristics. FINDINGS: About 64-68% of stroke and IHD cases in urban areas and 27-29% in rural areas chose tier 3 hospitals. In urban areas, higher reimbursement rates in each tier and lower tier 3 deductibles were associated with a greater likelihood of choosing their respective hospital tiers. In rural areas, the effects of cost-sharing were modest, suggesting a greater contribution of other factors. Higher socioeconomic status and greater disease severity were associated with a greater likelihood of seeking care in higher tier hospitals in urban and rural areas. INTERPRETATION: Patient choice of hospital tiers for treatment of stroke and IHD in China was influenced by differential cost-sharing in urban areas, but not in rural areas. Further strategies are required to incentivise appropriate health seeking behaviour and promote more efficient hospital use. FUNDING: Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Kadoorie Charitable Foundation, China Ministry of Science and Technology, and National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Original publication




Journal article


Lancet Reg Health West Pac

Publication Date





Cardiovascular diseases, China, Healthcare seeking behaviour, Hospital type