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Information and drug prices: evidence from the Medicare discount drug card program

Author

Listed:
  • Emin M. Dinlersoz
  • Han Li
  • Roger Sherman
  • Rubén Hernández-Murillo

Abstract

In early 2004, the U.S. Government initiated the Medicare Discount Drug Card Program (MDDCP), which created a market for drug cards that allowed elderly and handicapped subscribers to obtain discounts on their prescription drug purchases. Pharmacy-level prices for many drugs were posted on the program website weekly from May 29, 2004 to December 31, 2005, as the largest undertaking in the history of government-sponsored information release began with the hope of promoting competition by facilitating access to prices. A large panel of pharmacy-level drug price data collected from the Medicare website indicates that there was significant and persistent dispersion in prices across cards throughout the program. Moreover, the time-path of prices was non-monotonic; the prices declined initially when consumers were choosing cards but rose later when subscribers were unable to switch from one card to another. In contrast, contemporaneous control prices from on-line drug retailers, which were unrelated to the program, rose steadily over time, indicating that MDDCP prices evolved in a way different from the general evolution of prices outside the program. In view of the fact that the program rules prevented consumers from changing their cards at will, the evolution of MDDCP prices is consistent with certain models of dynamic price competition with consumer switching costs, such as Klemperer’s (1987a,b). Estimates of potential savings from purchasing at program prices are also provided.

Suggested Citation

  • Emin M. Dinlersoz & Han Li & Roger Sherman & Rubén Hernández-Murillo, 2006. "Information and drug prices: evidence from the Medicare discount drug card program," Working Papers 2005-072, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2005-072
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    File URL: http://research.stlouisfed.org/wp/2005/2005-072.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Steven Salop & Joseph Stiglitz, 1977. "Bargains and Ripoffs: A Model of Monopolistically Competitive Price Dispersion," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 44(3), pages 493-510.
    2. Joel Waldfogel & Jeffrey Milyo, 1999. "The Effect of Price Advertising on Prices: Evidence in the Wake of 44 Liquormart," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1081-1096, December.
    3. Jeffrey R. Brown & Austan Goolsbee, 2000. "Does the Internet Make Markets More Competitive?," NBER Working Papers 7996, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Burdett, Kenneth & Judd, Kenneth L, 1983. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(4), pages 955-969, July.
    5. Reinganum, Jennifer F, 1979. "A Simple Model of Equilibrium Price Dispersion," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(4), pages 851-858, August.
    6. Michael R. Baye & John Morgan & Patrick Scholten, 2004. "Price Dispersion In The Small And In The Large: Evidence From An Internet Price Comparison Site," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(4), pages 463-496, December.
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    Keywords

    Drugs ; Medical care; Cost of;

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