The literature around co-payment shows evidence of increasing consumption following reduced co-payment. We apply difference-in-difference methods to assess the effect of abolishing the co-payment on psychologist treatment of anxiety and depression in 18 to 21-year olds. We apply nationwide individual level data with individuals close to this age interval as control group. The population amounts to approximately 1.2 million individuals and a total of 51 million patient months of observations. We show that after removing co-payment, the use of psychologist treatment almost doubles. We find that this increase involves moderately positive spill over effects on outpatient psychiatric care and on prescriptions of antidepressants. In the heterogeneity analysis we find evidence of higher effects on adolescents from families with lower income, indicating that reduced co-payments may increase equality in access. We also see that effects are higher for individuals listed with general practitioners (GPs) with a reluctant referral style; indicating that these GPs' behavior is affected by patient co-payment rates. Interestingly, we find evidence of significant reductions in suicide attempts – primarily among high-income women and low-income men. This indicates that better access to mental health care for adolescents may have a positive impact on their mental health and well-being.
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We are grateful for the comments received from two anonymous reviewers, from Associate professor, MD, Ph.D., General Practitioner Jesper Lykkegaard and Senior consultant, MD, Ph.D. Lene Eplov and from participants in the Essen Economics of Mental Health Workshop 2021 especially the appointed discussant Marieke Bos. The work on this study was supported by a grant from the Danish Ministry of Health (Reference number.: 1708047) and from a research grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation (Grant number: NNF18OC0033978). We apply data from the Danish National Health Survey which was funded by The Capital Region, Region Zealand, The South Denmark Region, The Central Denmark Region, The North Denmark Region, The Ministry of Health and the National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark.
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