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Adverse Selection and Inertia in Health Insurance Markets: When Nudging Hurts

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  • Benjamin R. Handel

Abstract

This paper investigates consumer inertia in health insurance markets, where adverse selection is a potential concern. We leverage a major change to insurance provision that occurred at a large firm to identify substantial inertia, and develop and estimate a choice model that also quantifies risk preferences and ex ante health risk. We use these estimates to study the impact of policies that nudge consumers toward better decisions by reducing inertia. When aggregated, these improved individual-level choices substantially exacerbate adverse selection in our setting, leading to an overall reduction in welfare that doubles the existing welfare loss from adverse selection.

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin R. Handel, 2013. "Adverse Selection and Inertia in Health Insurance Markets: When Nudging Hurts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(7), pages 2643-2682, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:103:y:2013:i:7:p:2643-82
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.103.7.2643
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert Gertner, 1993. "Game Shows and Economic Behavior: Risk-Taking on "Card Sharks"," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 507-521.
    2. Amitabh Chandra & Jonathan Gruber & Robin McKnight, 2010. "Patient Cost-Sharing and Hospitalization Offsets in the Elderly," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 193-213, March.
    3. Samuelson, William & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1988. "Status Quo Bias in Decision Making," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 7-59, March.
    4. Alma Cohen & Liran Einav, 2007. "Estimating Risk Preferences from Deductible Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 745-788, June.
    5. Kowalski, Amanda E., 2015. "Estimating the tradeoff between risk protection and moral hazard with a nonlinear budget set model of health insurance," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 122-135.
    6. Matthew Shum, 2004. "Does Advertising Overcome Brand Loyalty? Evidence from the Breakfast-Cereals Market," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(2), pages 241-272, June.
    7. Cardon, James H & Hendel, Igal, 2001. "Asymmetric Information in Health Insurance: Evidence from the National Medical Expenditure Survey," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(3), pages 408-427, Autumn.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies
    • I13 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Insurance, Public and Private

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