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Dominated Options in Health-Insurance Plans

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  • Chenyuan Liu
  • Justin R. Sydnor

Abstract

Recent studies have found that many people select into health plans with higher coverage (e.g., lower deductibles) even when those plans are financially dominated by other options. We explore whether having dominated options is common by analyzing data on plan designs from the Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey for firms that offered employees both a high-deductible (HD) health plan and a lower-deductible (LD) option. In 65% of firms the high-deductible option would result in lower maximum possible health spending for the employee for the year. We estimate that the HD plan financially dominates the LD plan at roughly half of firms across a wide range of possible health spending needs employees might anticipate. The expected savings from selecting the HD plan are typically over $500 per year, often with no increase in financial risk. We present evidence that these patterns may arise naturally from employers passing through large average-cost differences between HD and LD plans to their employees. We discuss the implications of those dynamics for the nature of transfers between employees and the efficiency of health spending.

Suggested Citation

  • Chenyuan Liu & Justin R. Sydnor, 2018. "Dominated Options in Health-Insurance Plans," NBER Working Papers 24392, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24392
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Keith Marzilli Ericson & Justin R. Sydnor, 2018. "Liquidity Constraints and the Value of Insurance," NBER Working Papers 24993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Jason Abaluck & Jonathan Gruber, 2011. "Choice Inconsistencies among the Elderly: Evidence from Plan Choice in the Medicare Part D Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(4), pages 1180-1210, June.
    3. Zarek C. Brot-Goldberg & Amitabh Chandra & Benjamin R. Handel & Jonathan T. Kolstad, 2017. "What does a Deductible Do? The Impact of Cost-Sharing on Health Care Prices, Quantities, and Spending Dynamics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 132(3), pages 1261-1318.
    4. Jason Abaluck & Jonathan Gruber, 2011. "Heterogeneity in Choice Inconsistencies among the Elderly: Evidence from Prescription Drug Plan Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 377-381, May.
    5. Randall P. Ellis & Wenjia Zhu, 2016. "Health Plan Type Variations in Spells of Health-Care Treatment," American Journal of Health Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(4), pages 399-430, Fall.
    6. Haviland, Amelia M. & Eisenberg, Matthew D. & Mehrotra, Ateev & Huckfeldt, Peter J. & Sood, Neeraj, 2016. "Do “Consumer-Directed” health plans bend the cost curve over time?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 33-51.
    7. M. Kate Bundorf, 2016. "Consumer-Directed Health Plans: A Review Of The Evidence," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 83(1), pages 9-41, January.
    8. Newhouse, Joseph P., 2006. "Reconsidering the moral hazard-risk avoidance tradeoff," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(5), pages 1005-1014, September.
    9. Katherine Baicker & Sendhil Mullainathan & Joshua Schwartzstein, 2015. "Behavioral Hazard in Health Insurance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(4), pages 1623-1667.
    10. Saurabh Bhargava & George Loewenstein & Justin Sydnor, 2017. "Choose to Lose: Health Plan Choices from a Menu with Dominated Option," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 132(3), pages 1319-1372.
    11. Benjamin R. Handel, 2013. "Adverse Selection and Inertia in Health Insurance Markets: When Nudging Hurts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(7), pages 2643-2682, December.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D22 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Empirical Analysis
    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies
    • I13 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Insurance, Public and Private

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