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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg August 24, 2018

Waiting Times for Outpatient Treatment in Germany: New Experimental Evidence from Primary Data

Nils Heinrich, Ansgar Wübker and Christiane Wuckel


Long waiting times are a common feature and a major concern in many public health care systems. They are often characterized as inefficient because they are a burden to patients without generating any gains for providers. There is an ongoing debate in Germany regarding the preferential treatment given to private health insurance (PHI) holders while statutory health insurance (SHI) holders face continuously increasing waiting times. In order to tackle this problem in the outpatient sector, Germany initiated a reform in 2015 which was aimed at providing SHI holders with appointments within an acceptable time frame. We exploit longitudinal experimental data to examine waiting times for six elective outpatient treatments in Germany for PHI and SHI holders before and after the reform. We find a considerable difference in waiting times favoring private patients. For SHI holders, waiting times remained stable over time (27.5 days in 2014, 30.7 days in 2016, Δ 3.2 days, p-value=0.889) while PHI holders experienced a significant improvement (13.5 days in 2014; 7.8 days in 2016; Δ 5.7 days, p-value=0.002). The results indicate that even after the reform there is still an unequal access to elective outpatient treatment depending on the patient’s insurance status.

JEL Classification: I10; I11; I18


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Article note

This article is part of the special issue “Empirical Health Economics” published in the Journal of Economics and Statistics. Access to further articles of this special issue can be obtained at


Table A1:

Model specification.

Panel A – OLS
Dependent Variable: Waiting time in logs
OLSFEGLM – Negative binomial
Year 2016−0.537***−0.827***−0.612***
Year 2016 # SHI0.611***1.060***0.735***
Mean dependent variable2.0962.09619.509
Panel B – OLS
Dependent Variable: Dummy – Waiting time of more than 4 weeks
Year 2016−0.141**−0.218***
Year 2016 # SHI0.154*0.281***
Mean dependent variable0.2890.289
Treatment indicatorsYesYesYes

  1. * p<0.10, ** p<0.05, *** p<0.01

Table A2:

Variance comparison.

Ratio of

Standard deviation 2014/Standard deviation 2016
Levene’s robust test statistic1.3833.4647.184
Brown and Forsythe’s F statistic (median)0.0001.1035.468
Brown and Forsythe’s F statistic (trimmed mean)0.0442.1806.390
N 20141376968
N 2016254124130
Published Online: 2018-08-24
Published in Print: 2018-09-25

© 2018 Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag GmbH, Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg, Berlin/Boston