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Pricing and Welfare in Health Plan Choice

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  • M. Kate Bundorf
  • Jonathan D. Levin
  • Neale Mahoney

Abstract

Prices in government and employer-sponsored health insurance markets only partially reflect insurers' expected costs of coverage for different enrollees. This can create inefficient distortions when consumers self-select into plans. We develop a simple model to study this problem and estimate it using new data on small employers. In the markets we observe, the welfare loss compared to the feasible efficient benchmark is around 2-11% of coverage costs. Three-quarters of this is due to restrictions on risk-rating employee contributions; the rest is due to inefficient contribution choices. Despite the inefficiency, we find substantial benefits from plan choice relative to single-insurer options.

Suggested Citation

  • M. Kate Bundorf & Jonathan D. Levin & Neale Mahoney, 2008. "Pricing and Welfare in Health Plan Choice," NBER Working Papers 14153, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14153
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D40 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - General
    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms

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