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Let them Have Choice: Gains from Shifting Away from Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance and Toward an Individual Exchange

  • Leemore Dafny
  • Katherine Ho
  • Mauricio Varela
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Most non-elderly Americans purchase insurance through their employers, which sponsor a limited number of plans. We estimate how much employees would be willing to pay for the right to apply their employer subsidy to the plan of their choosing. We make use of a proprietary dataset containing information on plan offerings and enrollment for 800+ large employers between 1998 and 2006; the dataset represents over 10 million Americans annually. We estimate a model of employee preferences using the set of plans they are offered. Using the estimated parameters from this model, we predict employees' choices in a hypothetical world in which additional plans in a market are available to them on the same terms, i.e. tax-free and subsidized by their employers. Holding employer outlays constant, we estimate that the median welfare gain from expanding choice amounts to roughly 20 percent of premiums. For the vast majority of employee groups and alternative model specifications, the gains from choice are likely to outweigh potential premium increases associated with a transition from large group to individual pricing.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15687.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15687.

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Date of creation: Jan 2010
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Publication status: published as Leemore Dafny & Kate Ho & Mauricio Varela, 2013. "Let Them Have Choice: Gains from Shifting Away from Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance and toward an Individual Exchange," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 32-58, February.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15687
Note: HC HE IO
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  1. Jason T. Abaluck & Jonathan Gruber, 2009. "Choice Inconsistencies Among the Elderly: Evidence from Plan Choice in the Medicare Part D Program," NBER Working Papers 14759, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  15. Steven T. Berry, 1994. "Estimating Discrete-Choice Models of Product Differentiation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 25(2), pages 242-262, Summer.
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