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Insurance Search and Switching Behavior

  • Bolhaar, Jonneke
  • Lindeboom, Maarten
  • van der Klaauw, Bas

This paper looks into the search behavior of consumers in the market for health insurance contracts. We consider the recent health insurance reform in The Netherlands, where a private-public mix of insurance provision was replaced by a system based on managed competition. Although all insurers offer the same basic package (determined by the government), there is substantial premium dispersion. We develop a simple consumer search model containing the main features of the Dutch health insurance system. This model provides us with a number of hypotheses, which we test using data from the Dutch Health Care Consumer Panel. The data confirm the standard predictions on consumer choice (i.e. there is adverse selection and a lower premium increases coverage). We also find that consumers with lower search costs are more likely to receive a group contract offer. This generates a situation of price discrimination where individuals without group contracts and higher search costs pay higher premiums and buy lower insurance coverage.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7942.

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Date of creation: Aug 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7942
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  1. Jeffrey R. Brown & Austan Goolsbee, 2002. "Does the Internet Make Markets More Competitive? Evidence from the Life Insurance Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 481-507, June.
  2. Nicole Maestas & Mathis Schroeder & Dana P. Goldman, 2006. "Price Variation in Markets with Homogeneous Goods: The Case of Medigap," Working Papers 504, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  3. Alan T. Sorensen, 2001. "An Empirical Model of Heterogeneous Consumer Search for Retail Prescription Drugs," NBER Working Papers 8548, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Mark Pauly & Bradley Herring & David Song, 2006. "Information Technology and Consumer Search for Health Insurance," International Journal of the Economics of Business, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(1), pages 45-63.
  5. Strombom, Bruce A. & Buchmueller, Thomas C. & Feldstein, Paul J., 2002. "Switching costs, price sensitivity and health plan choice," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 89-116, January.
  6. Maarten C. W. Janssen & José Luis Moraga-González, 2004. "Strategic Pricing, Consumer Search and the Number of Firms," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 71(4), pages 1089-1118, October.
  7. Janssen, Maarten C.W. & Moraga-Gonzalez, Jose Luis & Wildenbeest, Matthijs R., 2005. "Truly costly sequential search and oligopolistic pricing," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 23(5-6), pages 451-466, June.
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