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Estimating Welfare in Insurance Markets Using Variation in Prices

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  • Liran Einav
  • Amy Finkelstein
  • Mark R. Cullen

Abstract

We show how standard consumer and producer theory can be used to estimate welfare in insurance markets with selection. The key observation is that the same price variation needed to identify the demand curve also identifies how costs vary as market participants endogenously respond to price. With estimates of both the demand and cost curves, welfare analysis is straightforward. We illustrate our approach by applying it to the employee health insurance choices at Alcoa, Inc. We detect adverse selection in this setting but estimate that its quantitative welfare implications are small, and not obviously remediable by standard public policy tools.

Suggested Citation

  • Liran Einav & Amy Finkelstein & Mark R. Cullen, 2008. "Estimating Welfare in Insurance Markets Using Variation in Prices," NBER Working Papers 14414, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14414
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Liran Einav & Amy Finkelstein & Jonathan Levin, 2010. "Beyond Testing: Empirical Models of Insurance Markets," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 2(1), pages 311-336, September.
    2. Raj Chetty, 2009. "Sufficient Statistics for Welfare Analysis: A Bridge Between Structural and Reduced-Form Methods," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 451-488, May.
    3. Raj Chetty & Emmanuel Saez, 2010. "Optimal Taxation and Social Insurance with Endogenous Private Insurance," NBER Chapters,in: Income Taxation, Trans-Atlantic Public Economics Seminar (TAPES), pages 85-114 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Amy Finkelstein, 2011. "Comment on "The Demand for Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Coverage: Evidence from Four Waves of the Retirement Perspectives Survey"," NBER Chapters,in: Explorations in the Economics of Aging, pages 182-185 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Rahkovsky, Ilya, 2010. "Exclusive contracts in health insurance," MPRA Paper 27473, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C13 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Estimation: General
    • C51 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Model Construction and Estimation
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets

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