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The Aggregate Effects of Health Insurance: Evidence from the Introduction of Medicare

  • Amy Finkelstein

This paper investigates the effects of market-wide changes in health insurance by examining the single largest change in health insurance coverage in American history: the introduction of Medicare in 1965. I estimate that the impact of Medicare on hospital spending is over six times larger than what the evidence from individual-level changes in health insurance would have predicted. This disproportionately larger effect may arise if market-wide changes in demand alter the incentives of hospitals to incur the fixed costs of entering the market or of adopting new practice styles. I present some evidence of these types of effects. A back of the envelope calculation based on the estimated impact of Medicare suggests that the overall spread of health insurance between 1950 and 1990 may be able to explain about half of the increase in real per capita health spending over this time period. Copyright by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 122 (2007)
Issue (Month): 1 (02)
Pages: 1-37

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:122:y:2007:i:1:p:1-37
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  1. Amy Finkelstein, 2004. "Static and Dynamic Effects of Health Policy: Evidence From the Vaccine Industry," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(2), pages 527-564, May.
  2. Keeler, Emmett B. & Rolph, John E., 1988. "The demand for episodes of treatment in the health insurance experiment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(4), pages 337-367, December.
  3. Daron Acemoglu & Joshua Linn, 2004. "Market Size in Innovation: Theory and Evidence from the Pharmaceutical Industry," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(3), pages 1049-1090, August.
  4. Mark Duggan, 2000. "Hospital Ownership and Public Medical Spending," NBER Working Papers 7789, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Feldstein, Martin S, 1971. "Hospital Cost Inflation: A Study of Nonprofit Price Dynamics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(5), pages 853-72, December.
  6. Cutler David M. & Sheiner Louise, 1998. "Managed Care and the Growth of Medical Expenditures," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 1-41, January.
  7. Cutler, David M. & Zeckhauser, Richard J., 2000. "The anatomy of health insurance," Handbook of Health Economics, in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 11, pages 563-643 Elsevier.
  8. Glied, Sherry & Zivin, Joshua Graff, 2002. "How do doctors behave when some (but not all) of their patients are in managed care?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 337-353, March.
  9. Feldstein, Martin S, 1977. "Quality Change and the Demand for Hospital Care," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(7), pages 1681-1702, October.
  10. Thomas G. McGuire & Mark V. Pauly, 1991. "Physician Response to Fee Changes with Multiple Payers," Papers 0015, Boston University - Industry Studies Programme.
  11. Jonathan Skinner & Douglas Staiger, 2005. "Technology adoption from hybrid corn to beta blockers," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  12. David M. Cutler & Louise Sheiner, 1998. "Managed Care and the Growth of Medical Expenditures," NBER Chapters, in: Frontiers in Health Policy Research, Volume 1, pages 77-116 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Joseph P. Newhouse, 2004. "Pricing the Priceless: A Health Care Conundrum," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262640589, June.
  14. Manning, Willard G, et al, 1987. "Health Insurance and the Demand for Medical Care: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 251-77, June.
  15. Joseph P. Newhouse, 1992. "Medical Care Costs: How Much Welfare Loss?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 3-21, Summer.
  16. McGuire, Thomas G. & Pauly, Mark V., 1991. "Physician response to fee changes with multiple payers," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 385-410.
  17. David M. Cutler, 2002. "Equality, Efficiency, and Market Fundamentals: The Dynamics of International Medical-Care Reform," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(3), pages 881-906, September.
  18. Amy Finkelstein & Robin McKnight, 2005. "What Did Medicare Do (And Was It Worth It)?," NBER Working Papers 11609, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Glied, Sherry, 2000. "Managed care," Handbook of Health Economics, in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 13, pages 707-753 Elsevier.
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