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The Welfare Effects of Public Drug Insurance

  • Darius Lakdawalla
  • Neeraj Sood

Rewarding inventors with inefficient monopoly power has long been regarded as the price of encouraging innovation. Public prescription drug insurance escapes that trade-off and achieves an elusive goal: lowering static deadweight loss, while simultaneously encouraging dynamic investments in innovation. As a result of this feature, the public provision of drug insurance can be welfare-improving, even for risk-neutral and purely self-interested consumers. In spite of its relatively low benefit levels, the Medicare Part D benefit generate $3.5 billion of annual static deadweight loss reduction, and at least $2.8 billion of annual value from extra innovation. These two components alone cover 87% of the social cost of publicly financing the benefit. The analysis of static and dynamic efficiency also has implications for policies complementary to a drug benefit: in the context of public monopsony power, some degree of price-negotiation by the government is always strictly welfare-improving, but this should often be coupled with extensions in patent length.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13501.

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Date of creation: Oct 2007
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Lakdawalla, Darius & Sood, Neeraj, 2009. "Innovation and the welfare effects of public drug insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(3-4), pages 541-548, April.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13501
Note: HC HE PE
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  1. Garber Alan M & Jones Charles I. & Romer Paul, 2006. "Insurance and Incentives for Medical Innovation," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 9(2), pages 1-27, March.
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  3. Darius Lakdawalla & Neeraj Sood, 2006. "Health Insurance as a Two-Part Pricing Contract," NBER Working Papers 12681, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. Richard Gilbert & Carl Shapiro, 1990. "Optimal Patent Length and Breadth," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(1), pages 106-112, Spring.
  8. William D. Nordhaus, 2004. "Schumpeterian Profits in the American Economy: Theory and Measurement," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1457, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  9. Klemperer, Paul, 1990. "How Broad Should the Scope of Patent Protection Be?," CEPR Discussion Papers 392, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Martin Feldstein, 1995. "Tax Avoidance and the Deadweight Loss of the Income Tax," NBER Working Papers 5055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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