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In the Shadow of a Giant: Medicare’s Influence on Private Physician Payments

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  • Jeffrey Clemens
  • Joshua D. Gottlieb

Abstract

We analyze Medicare’s influence on private insurers’ payments for physicians’ services. Using a large administrative change in reimbursements for surgical versus medical care, we find that private prices follow Medicare’s lead. A $1.00 increase in Medicare’s fees increases corresponding private prices by $1.16. A second set of Medicare fee changes, which generates area-specific payment shocks, has a similar effect on private reimbursements. Medicare’s influence is strongest in areas with concentrated insurers and competitive physician markets, consistent with insurer-doctor bargaining. By echoing Medicare’s pricing changes, these payment spillovers amplify Medicare’s impact on specialty choice and other welfare-relevant aspects of physician practices.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeffrey Clemens & Joshua D. Gottlieb, 2017. "In the Shadow of a Giant: Medicare’s Influence on Private Physician Payments," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 125(1), pages 1-39.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:doi:10.1086/689772
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H44 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Publicly Provided Goods: Mixed Markets
    • H51 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Health
    • H57 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Procurement
    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • I13 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Insurance, Public and Private
    • L98 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Government Policy

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