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Are Health Insurance Markets Competitive?

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  • Leemore S. Dafny

Abstract

To gauge the competitiveness of the group health insurance industry, I investigate whether health insurers charge higher premiums, ceteris paribus, to more profitable firms. Such "direct price discrimination" is feasible only in imperfectly competitive settings. Using a proprietary national database of health plans offered by a sample of large, multisite firms from 1998-2005, I find firms with positive profit shocks subsequently face higher premium growth, even for the same health plans. Moreover, within a given firm, those sites located in concentrated insurance markets experience the greatest premium increases. The findings suggest health care insurers are exercising market power in an increasing number of geographic markets. (JEL G22, I11, I18, L11, L25)

Suggested Citation

  • Leemore S. Dafny, 2010. "Are Health Insurance Markets Competitive?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1399-1431, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:100:y:2010:i:4:p:1399-1431
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.100.4.1399
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald & Peter Sanfey, 1996. "Wages, Profits, and Rent-Sharing," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(1), pages 227-251.
    2. Duggan, Mark, 2004. "Does contracting out increase the efficiency of government programs? Evidence from Medicaid HMOs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2549-2572, December.
    3. Severin Borenstein & Joseph Farrell, 2007. "Do investors forecast fat firms? Evidence from the gold-mining industry," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 38(3), pages 626-647, September.
    4. Baltagi, Badi H. & Wu, Ping X., 1999. "Unequally Spaced Panel Data Regressions With Ar(1) Disturbances," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(06), pages 814-823, December.
    5. 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.
    6. David Dranove & Anne Gron & Michael J. Mazzeo, 2003. "Differentiation and Competition in HMO Markets," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(4), pages 433-454, December.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies
    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • L25 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Performance

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