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Plan selection in Medicare Part D: Evidence from administrative data

  • Heiss, Florian
  • Leive, Adam
  • McFadden, Daniel L.
  • Winter, Joachim

We study the Medicare Part D prescription drug insurance program as a bellwether for designs of private, non-mandatory health insurance markets, focusing on the ability of consumers to evaluate and optimize their choices of plans. Our analysis of administrative data on medical claims in Medicare Part D suggests that fewer than 25\% of individuals enroll in plans that are ex ante as good as the least cost plan specified by the Plan Finder tool made available to seniors by the Medicare administration, and that consumers on average have expected excess spending of about 300 per year, or about 15\% of expected total out-of-pocket cost for drugs and Part D insurance. These numbers are hard to reconcile with decision costs alone; it appears that unless a sizeable fraction of consumers place large values on plan features other than cost, they are not optimizing effectively.

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Paper provided by University of Munich, Department of Economics in its series Munich Reprints in Economics with number 19428.

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Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of Health Economics 6 32(2013): pp. 1325-1344
Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenar:19428
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  1. Heiss, Florian & Leive, Adam & McFadden, Daniel & Winter, Joachim, 2012. "Plan selection in Medicare Part D: Evidence from administrative data," Annual Conference 2012 (Goettingen): New Approaches and Challenges for the Labor Market of the 21st Century 65406, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  2. Jeffrey R. Kling & Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir & Lee Vermeulen & Marian Wrobel, 2011. "Comparison Friction: Experimental Evidence from Medicare Drug Plans," NBER Working Papers 17410, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Jonathan Gruber, 2008. "Covering the Uninsured in the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(3), pages 571-606, September.
  4. Jason Abaluck & Jonathan Gruber, 2011. "Choice Inconsistencies among the Elderly: Evidence from Plan Choice in the Medicare Part D Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(4), pages 1180-1210, June.
  5. Tibor Besedeš & Cary Deck & Sudipta Sarangi & Mikhael Shor, 2012. "Age Effects and Heuristics in Decision Making," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(2), pages 580-595, May.
  6. Helen Levy & David R. Weir, 2010. "Take-up of Medicare Part D: Results From the Health and Retirement Study," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 65(4), pages 492-501.
  7. Jonathan D. Ketcham & Claudio Lucarelli & Eugenio J. Miravete & M. Christopher Roebuck, 2012. "Sinking, Swimming, or Learning to Swim in Medicare Part D," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(6), pages 2639-73, October.
  8. Mark V. Pauly & Yuhui Zeng, 2004. "Adverse Selection and the Challenges to Stand-Alone Prescription Drug Insurance," NBER Chapters, in: Frontiers in Health Policy Research, Volume 7, pages 55-74 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Keith M. Marzilli Ericson, 2012. "Consumer Inertia and Firm Pricing in the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Insurance Exchange," NBER Working Papers 18359, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Sinaiko, Anna D. & Hirth, Richard A., 2011. "Consumers, health insurance and dominated choices," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 450-457, March.
  11. David M. Cutler & Sarah J. Reber, 1998. "Paying For Health Insurance: The Trade-Off Between Competition And Adverse Selection," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(2), pages 433-466, May.
  12. Claudio Lucarelli & Jeffrey Prince & Kosali Simon, 2012. "The Welfare Impact Of Reducing Choice In Medicare Part D: A Comparison Of Two Regulation Strategies," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 53(4), pages 1155-1177, November.
  13. Florian Heiss & Daniel McFadden & Joachim Winter, 2009. "Regulation of private health insurance markets: Lessons from enrollment, plan type choice, and adverse selection in Medicare Part D," NBER Working Papers 15392, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Keith Marzilli Ericson & Amanda Starc, 2012. "Heuristics and Heterogeneity in Health Insurance Exchanges: Evidence from the Massachusetts Connector," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(3), pages 493-97, May.
  15. Besedeš, Tibor & Deck, Cary & Sarangi, Sudipta & Shor, Mikhael, 2012. "Decision-making strategies and performance among seniors," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 524-533.
  16. Sumit Agarwal & John C. Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2009. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions over the Life Cycle and Implications for Regulation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 40(2 (Fall)), pages 51-117.
  17. Benjamin R. Handel & Jonathan T. Kolstad, 2013. "Health Insurance for "Humans": Information Frictions, Plan Choice, and Consumer Welfare," NBER Working Papers 19373, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Iyengar, Sheena S. & Kamenica, Emir, 2010. "Choice proliferation, simplicity seeking, and asset allocation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(7-8), pages 530-539, August.
  19. Laibson, David I. & Agarwal, Sumit & Driscoll, John C. & Gabaix, Xavier, 2009. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions over the Life-Cycle with Implications for Regulation," Scholarly Articles 4554335, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  20. Heiss, Florian & McFadden, Daniel L. & Winter, Joachim, 2006. "Who failed to enroll in Medicare Part D, and why? Early results," Munich Reprints in Economics 19427, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  21. Gary V. Engelhardt & Jonathan Gruber, 2011. "Medicare Part D and the Financial Protection of the Elderly," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 77-102, November.
  22. Mark Duggan & Patrick Healy & Fiona Scott Morton, 2008. "Providing Prescription Drug Coverage to the Elderly: America's Experiment with Medicare Part D," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 69-92, Fall.
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