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The Samaritan’s Dilemma and public health insurance

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  • Facundo Sepulveda
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    Abstract

    When the government cannot commit to withdraw from providing charity health care, as is the case when it faces the Samaritan's Dilemma, a pub- lic health insurance scheme can be Pareto improving. However, the large heterogeneity in the design of such schemes observed around the world begs the question of what characterizes the optimal public health insurance plan. In this paper, we examine the distortions created by three plans, nested in terms of the constraints they place on the individual's decision problem. We ¯nd that linking public health insurance bene¯ts to the use of a certain type of health care, such as treatment in public hospitals, creates incentives against the e±cient use of higher quality health care. When such constraint is lifted, but the public insurance scheme still determines a minimum level of coverage for each illness, ¯rst best e±ciency is achieved. It turns out that placing constraints in the form of minimum levels of coverage for each illness is necessary for e±ciency. Removing such constraint decreases the relative price of high quality care for a subset of illnesses, and leads to too much high quality care used in equilibrium. This analysis suggests that the widespread practice of determining illness by illness coverage in public health insurance systems has an e±ciency rationale, despite the administrative and informational di±culties that it entails.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 536.

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    Date of creation: Sep 2006
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    Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:536

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    Keywords: Samaritan's Dilemma; Health insurance.;

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    1. Bruce, Neil & Waldman, Michael, 1991. "Transfers in Kind: Why They Can Be Efficient and Nonpaternalistic," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1345-51, December.
    2. Coate, Stephen, 1995. "Altruism, the Samaritan's Dilemma, and Government Transfer Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 46-57, March.
    3. Jan Kerssens & Peter Groenewegen, 2005. "Consumer preferences in social health insurance," The European Journal of Health Economics, Springer, vol. 6(1), pages 8-15, March.
    4. Francesca Colombo & Nicole Tapay, 2004. "Private Health Insurance in OECD Countries: The Benefits and Costs for Individuals and Health Systems," OECD Health Working Papers 15, OECD Publishing.
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