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Comparison Friction: Experimental Evidence from Medicare Drug Plans

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  • Jeffrey R. Kling
  • Sendhil Mullainathan
  • Eldar Shafir
  • Lee C. Vermeulen
  • Marian V. Wrobel

Abstract

Consumers need information to compare alternatives for markets to function efficiently. Recognizing this, public policies often pair competition with easy access to comparative information. The implicit assumption is that comparison friction—the wedge between the availability of comparative information and consumers’ use of it—is inconsequential because information is readily available and consumers will access this information and make effective choices. We examine the extent of comparison friction in the market for Medicare Part D prescription drug plans in the United States. In a randomized field experiment, an intervention group received a letter with personalized cost information. That information was readily available for free and widely advertised. However, this additional step—providing the information rather than having consumers actively access it—had an impact. Plan switching was 28 percent in the intervention group, versus 17 percent in the comparison group, and the intervention caused an average decline in predicted consumer cost of about $100 per year among letter recipients—roughly 5 percent of the cost in the comparison group. Our results suggest that comparison friction can be large even when the cost of acquiring information is small, and may be relevant for a wide range of public policies that incorporate consumer choice.

(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Mathematica Policy Research in its series Mathematica Policy Research Reports with number 7375.

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Date of creation: 01 Feb 2012
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Handle: RePEc:mpr:mprres:7375

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Keywords: Medicare Drug Plans; Medicare Part D; Health;

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References

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  1. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 2002. "How Much Is Investor Autonomy Worth?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(4), pages 1593-1616, 08.
  2. Michael Smith & Erik Brynjolfsson, 1999. "Frictionless Commerce? A Comparison of Internet and Conventional Retailers," Computing in Economics and Finance 1999 1022, Society for Computational Economics.
  3. Ketcham, Jonathan D. & Lucarelli, Claudio & Miravete, Eugenio J & Roebuck, M Christopher, 2011. "Sinking, Swimming, or Learning to Swim in Medicare Part D," CEPR Discussion Papers 8585, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Claudio Lucarelli & Jeffrey Prince & Kosali Simon, 2008. "The Welfare Impact of Reducing Choice in Medicare Part D: A Comparison of Two Regulation Strategies," NBER Working Papers 14296, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Jason Abaluck & Jonathan Gruber, 2011. "Choice Inconsistencies among the Elderly: Evidence from Plan Choice in the Medicare Part D Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(4), pages 1180-1210, June.
  6. Jeffrey R. Brown & Austan Goolsbee, 2002. "Does the Internet Make Markets More Competitive? Evidence from the Life Insurance Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 481-507, June.
  7. Amy Finkelstein, 2010. "Comment on "Mind the Gap! Consumer Perceptions and Choices of Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans"," NBER Chapters, in: Research Findings in the Economics of Aging, pages 481-484 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Dana P. Goldman & Geoffrey F. Joyce & William B. Vogt, 2011. "Part D Formulary and Benefit Design as a Risk-Steering Mechanism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 382-86, May.
  9. Florian Heiss & Daniel McFadden & Joachim Winter, 2010. "Mind the Gap! Consumer Perceptions and Choices of Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans," NBER Chapters, in: Research Findings in the Economics of Aging, pages 413-481 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Morton, Fiona Scott & Zettelmeyer, Florian & Silva-Risso, Jorge, 2001. "Internet Car Retailing," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(4), pages 501-19, December.
  11. David Weil & Archon Fung & Mary Graham & Elena Fagotto, 2006. "The effectiveness of regulatory disclosure policies," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(1), pages 155-181.
  12. Fiona Scott Morton & Florian Zettelmeyer & Jorge Silva-Risso, 2001. "Internet Car Retailing," NBER Chapters, in: E-commerce, pages 501-519 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Kesternich, Iris & Heiss, Florian & McFadden, Daniel & Winter, Joachim, 2012. "Suit the action to the word, the word to the action: Hypothetical choices and real decisions in Medicare Part D," Discussion Papers in Economics 14124, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Heiss, Florian & Leive, Adam & McFadden, Daniel & Winter, Joachim, 2012. "Plan selection in Medicare Part D: Evidence from administrative data," Annual Conference 2012 (Goettingen): New Approaches and Challenges for the Labor Market of the 21st Century 65406, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  3. Fels, Markus, 2013. "Limited Attention and the Demand for Health Insurance," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 80485, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  4. Vetter, Stefan & Heiss, Florian & McFadden, Daniel & Winter, Joachim, 2012. "Risk attitudes and Medicare Part D enrollment decisions," Discussion Papers in Economics 12740, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  5. Jeffrey B. Liebman & Erzo F.P. Luttmer, 2011. "Would People Behave Differently If They Better Understood Social Security? Evidence From a Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 17287, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Loewenstein, George & Friedman, Joelle Y. & McGill, Barbara & Ahmad, Sarah & Linck, Suzanne & Sinkula, Stacey & Beshears, John & Choi, James J. & Kolstad, Jonathan & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte, 2013. "Consumers’ misunderstanding of health insurance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 850-862.
  7. Raj Chetty & Amy Finkelstein, 2012. "Social Insurance: Connecting Theory to Data," NBER Working Papers 18433, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Jason Abaluck & Jonathan Gruber, 2013. "Evolving Choice Inconsistencies in Choice of Prescription Drug Insurance," NBER Working Papers 19163, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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