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Pricing and Welfare in Health Plan Choice

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

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.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14153.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14153.

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Date of creation: Jun 2008
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Publication status: published as M. Kate Bundorf & Jonathan Levin & Neale Mahoney, 2012. "Pricing and Welfare in Health Plan Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(7), pages 3214-48, December.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14153
Note: HC HE IO PE
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  1. Scanlon, Dennis P. & Chernew, Michael & McLaughlin, Catherine & Solon, Gary, 2002. "The impact of health plan report cards on managed care enrollment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 19-41, January.
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  12. Roger Feldman & Michael Finch & Bryan Dowd & Steven Cassou, 1989. "The Demand for Employment-Based Health Insurance Plans," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 24(1), pages 115-142.
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  15. Cutler, David M. & Zeckhauser, Richard J., 2000. "The anatomy of health insurance," Handbook of Health Economics, in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 11, pages 563-643 Elsevier.
  16. Anne Beeson Royalty & Neil Solomon, 1999. "Health Plan Choice: Price Elasticities in a Managed Competition Setting," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(1), pages 1-41.
  17. Van de ven, Wynand P.M.M. & Ellis, Randall P., 2000. "Risk adjustment in competitive health plan markets," Handbook of Health Economics, in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 14, pages 755-845 Elsevier.
  18. Pauly, Mark V. & Herring, Bradley J., 2000. "An efficient employer strategy for dealing with adverse selection in multiple-plan offerings: an MSA example," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 513-528, July.
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  20. Akerlof, George A, 1970. "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500, August.
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