IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Insurer Competition in Health Care Markets


  • Kate Ho
  • Robin S. Lee


The impact of insurer competition on welfare, negotiated provider prices, and premiums in the U.S. private health care industry is theoretically ambiguous. Reduced competition may increase the premiums charged by insurers and their payments made to hospitals. However, it may also strengthen insurers' bargaining leverage when negotiating with hospitals, thereby generating offsetting cost decreases. To understand and measure this trade-off, we estimate a model of employer-insurer and hospital-insurer bargaining over premiums and reimbursements, household demand for insurance, and individual demand for hospitals using detailed California admissions, claims, and enrollment data. We simulate the removal of both large and small insurers from consumers' choice sets. Although consumer welfare decreases and premiums typically increase, we find that premiums can fall upon the removal of a small insurer if an employer imposes effective premium constraints through negotiations with the remaining insurers. We also document substantial heterogeneity in hospital price adjustments upon the removal of an insurer, with renegotiated price increases and decreases of as much as 10% across markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Kate Ho & Robin S. Lee, 2013. "Insurer Competition in Health Care Markets," NBER Working Papers 19401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19401
    Note: HC IO

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robin Lee & Michael Whinston & Ali Yurukoglu & Gregory Crawford, 2013. "The Welfare Effects of Vertical Integration in Multichannel Television Markets," 2013 Meeting Papers 81, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Gregory S. Crawford & Ali Yurukoglu, 2012. "The Welfare Effects of Bundling in Multichannel Television Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(2), pages 643-685, April.
    3. A. Pakes & J. Porter & Kate Ho & Joy Ishii, 2015. "Moment Inequalities and Their Application," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 83, pages 315-334, January.
    4. Henrick Horn & Asher Wolinsky, 1988. "Bilateral Monopolies and Incentives for Merger," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 19(3), pages 408-419, Autumn.
    5. 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.
    6. Michaela Draganska & Daniel Klapper & Sofia B. Villas-Boas, 2010. "A Larger Slice or a Larger Pie? An Empirical Investigation of Bargaining Power in the Distribution Channel," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 29(1), pages 57-74, 01-02.
    7. Gal-Or, Esther, 1999. "The profitability of vertical mergers between hospitals and physician practices," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(5), pages 621-652, October.
    8. Lars A. Stole & Jeffrey Zwiebel, 1996. "Intra-firm Bargaining under Non-binding Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(3), pages 375-410.
    9. Matthew Grennan, 2013. "Price Discrimination and Bargaining: Empirical Evidence from Medical Devices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(1), pages 145-177, February.
    10. Maria Polyakova, 2016. "Regulation of Insurance with Adverse Selection and Switching Costs: Evidence from Medicare Part D," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(3), pages 165-195, July.
    11. Moriya, Asako S. & Vogt, William B. & Gaynor, Martin, 2010. "Hospital prices and market structure in the hospital and insurance industries," Health Economics, Policy and Law, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(04), pages 459-479, October.
    12. Joseph Farrell & David Balan & Keith Brand & Brett Wendling, 2011. "Economics at the FTC: Hospital Mergers, Authorized Generic Drugs, and Consumer Credit Markets," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 39(4), pages 271-296, December.
    13. Robin S. Lee, 2013. "Vertical Integration and Exclusivity in Platform and Two-Sided Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(7), pages 2960-3000, December.
    14. Matthew S. Lewis & Kevin E. Pflum, 2015. "Diagnosing Hospital System Bargaining Power in Managed Care Networks," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 243-274, February.
    15. Katherine Ho, 2006. "The welfare effects of restricted hospital choice in the US medical care market," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(7), pages 1039-1079.
    16. Alan T. Sorensen, 2003. "Insurer-hospital bargaining: negotiated discounts in post-deregulation connecticut," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(4), pages 469-490, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Gautam Gowrisankaran & Aviv Nevo & Robert Town, 2015. "Mergers When Prices Are Negotiated: Evidence from the Hospital Industry," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(1), pages 172-203, January.
    2. Dubois, Pierre & Saethre, Morten, 2018. "On the Effect of Parallel Trade on Manufacturers’ and Retailers’ Profits in the Pharmaceutical Sector," TSE Working Papers 18-883, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    3. Robin Lee & Michael Whinston & Ali Yurukoglu & Gregory Crawford, 2013. "The Welfare Effects of Vertical Integration in Multichannel Television Markets," 2013 Meeting Papers 81, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. Martin Gaynor & Kate Ho & Robert J. Town, 2015. "The Industrial Organization of Health-Care Markets," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 53(2), pages 235-284, June.
    5. Patrick Rey & Thibaud Vergé, 2017. "Secret contracting in multilateral relations," Working Papers 2017-44, Center for Research in Economics and Statistics.
    6. Duggan, Mark & Starc, Amanda & Vabson, Boris, 2016. "Who benefits when the government pays more? Pass-through in the Medicare Advantage program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 141(C), pages 50-67.
    7. Wouters, Olivier J. & Cylus, Jonathan & Yang, Wei & Thomson, Sarah & McKee, Martin, 2016. "Medical savings accounts: assessing their impact on efficiency, equity, and financial protection in health care," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 65448, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    8. repec:eee:indorg:v:53:y:2017:i:c:p:241-266 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Samuel Kleiner & William White & Sean Lyons, 2015. "Market power and provider consolidation in physician markets," International Journal of Health Economics and Management, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 99-126, March.
    10. Sonia Jaffe & Mark Shepard, 2017. "Price-Linked Subsidies and Health Insurance Markups," Working Papers 2017-084, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    11. Leemore Dafny & Kate Ho & Robin S. Lee, 2016. "The Price Effects of Cross-Market Hospital Mergers," NBER Working Papers 22106, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Jeroen Hinloopen & Adriaan R. Soetevent, 2016. "(Non-)Insurance Markets, Loss Size Manipulation and Competition - Experimental Evidence," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 16-033/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
    13. Gaudin, Germain, 2017. "Vertical bargaining and retail competition: What drives countervailing power?," DICE Discussion Papers 195, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    14. Soetevent, Adriaan & Hinloopen, Jeroen, 2016. "(Non-)Insurance Markets, Loss Size Manipulation and Competition," Research Report 16009-EEF, University of Groningen, Research Institute SOM (Systems, Organisations and Management).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • L40 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19401. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.