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Does Free Care Improve Adults Health? Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial

December 1983

Robert H. Brook, John E. Ware, William H. Rogers, Emmett B. Keeler, Allyson R. Davies, Cathy A. Donald, George A. Goldberg, Kathleen N. Lohr, Patricia C. Masthay, Joseph P. Newhouse


A sample of 3,958 people were randomly assigned to two differing healthcare plans: one providing entirely free care, and the other involving cost-sharing. The results suggest that free care significantly benefited the health of poor patients in terms of eyesight, blood pressure, and overall mortality rate. They do not find a significant impact of free care on the rich.

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Policy Implications

These results indicate that eliminating cost-sharing for the poor will significantly increase their health outcomes. This suggests that a progressive cost-sharing plan may maximize health outcomes while maintain cost-effectiveness.

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