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Moral Hazard in Health Insurance: What We Know and How We Know It

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  • Liran Einav
  • Amy Finkelstein

Abstract

We describe research on the impact of health insurance on healthcare spending ("moral hazard"), and use this context to illustrate the value of and important complementarities between different empirical approaches. One common approach is to emphasize a credible research design; we review results from two randomized experiments, as well as some quasi-experimental studies. This work has produced compelling evidence that moral hazard in health insurance exists – that is, individuals, on average, consume less healthcare when they are required to pay more for it out of pocket – as well as qualitative evidence about its nature. These studies alone, however, provide little guidance for forecasting healthcare spending under contracts not directly observed in the data. Therefore, a second and complementary approach is to develop an economic model that can be used out of sample. We note that modeling choices can be consequential: different economic models may fit the reduced form but deliver different counterfactual predictions. An additional role of the more descriptive analyses is therefore to provide guidance regarding model choice.

Suggested Citation

  • Liran Einav & Amy Finkelstein, 2017. "Moral Hazard in Health Insurance: What We Know and How We Know It," NBER Working Papers 24055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24055
    Note: AG HC IO PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Aviva Aron-Dine & Liran Einav & Amy Finkelstein & Mark Cullen, 2015. "Moral Hazard in Health Insurance: Do Dynamic Incentives Matter?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 725-741, October.
    2. Joshua D. Angrist & Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 2010. "The Credibility Revolution in Empirical Economics: How Better Research Design Is Taking the Con out of Econometrics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(2), pages 3-30, Spring.
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    4. Liran Einav & Amy Finkelstein & Stephen P. Ryan & Paul Schrimpf & Mark R. Cullen, 2013. "Selection on Moral Hazard in Health Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(1), pages 178-219, February.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies

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