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Let them Have Choice: Gains from Shifting Away from Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance and Toward an Individual Exchange

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  • Leemore Dafny
  • Katherine Ho
  • Mauricio Varela
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Abstract

Most non-elderly Americans purchase insurance through their employers, which sponsor a limited number of plans. We estimate how much employees would be willing to pay for the right to apply their employer subsidy to the plan of their choosing. We make use of a proprietary dataset containing information on plan offerings and enrollment for 800+ large employers between 1998 and 2006; the dataset represents over 10 million Americans annually. We estimate a model of employee preferences using the set of plans they are offered. Using the estimated parameters from this model, we predict employees’ choices in a hypothetical world in which additional plans in a market are available to them on the same terms, i.e. tax-free and subsidized by their employers. Holding employer outlays constant, we estimate that the median welfare gain from expanding choice amounts to roughly 20 percent of premiums. For the vast majority of employee groups and alternative model specifications, the gains from choice are likely to outweigh potential premium increases associated with a transition from large group to individual pricing.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15687.

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Date of creation: Jan 2010
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15687

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References

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  1. Gruber, Jonathan & Washington, Ebonya, 2005. "Subsidies to employee health insurance premiums and the health insurance market," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 253-276, March.
  2. Scanlon, Dennis P. & Chernew, Michael & McLaughlin, Catherine & Solon, Gary, 2002. "The impact of health plan report cards on managed care enrollment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 19-41, January.
  3. Swamy, P A V B, 1970. "Efficient Inference in a Random Coefficient Regression Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 38(2), pages 311-23, March.
  4. David M. Cutler & Sarah Reber, 1996. "Paying for Health Insurance: The Tradeoff between Competition and Adverse Selection," NBER Working Papers 5796, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Kate Bundorf, M., 2002. "Employee demand for health insurance and employer health plan choices," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 65-88, January.
  6. Anne Beeson Royalty & Neil Solomon, 1999. "Health Plan Choice: Price Elasticities in a Managed Competition Setting," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(1), pages 1-41.
  7. Wedig, Gerard J. & Tai-Seale, Ming, 2002. "The effect of report cards on consumer choice in the health insurance market," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(6), pages 1031-1048, November.
  8. Chernew, Michael & Gowrisankaran, Gautam & McLaughlin, Catherine & Gibson, Teresa, 2004. "Quality and employers' choice of health plans," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 471-492, May.
  9. Aviv Nevo, 2003. "New Products, Quality Changes, and Welfare Measures Computed from Estimated Demand Systems," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(2), pages 266-275, May.
  10. Beaulieu, Nancy Dean, 2002. "Quality information and consumer health plan choices," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 43-63, January.
  11. Jin, Ginger Zhe & Sorensen, Alan T., 2006. "Information and consumer choice: The value of publicized health plan ratings," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 248-275, March.
  12. Buchmueller, Thomas C. & Feldstein, Paul J., 1997. "The effect of price on switching among health plans," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 231-247, April.
  13. Jason T. Abaluck & Jonathan Gruber, 2009. "Choice Inconsistencies Among the Elderly: Evidence from Plan Choice in the Medicare Part D Program," NBER Working Papers 14759, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Jacob Glazer & Thomas G. McGuire & Julie Shi, 2013. "Risk Adjustment of Health Plan Payments to Correct Inefficient Plan Choice from Adverse Selection," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring and Modeling Health Care Costs National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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