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The Effect of Price Shopping in Medical Markets: Hospital Responses to PPOs in California

  • Jonathan Gruber

The last ten years have seen the introduction of price shopping into medical markets which were previously dominated by price insensitive consumers. Price shopping has been facilitated by the advent of the Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), which coordinates the demand of a large number of individual health care buyers, thereby gaining market rower which it uses to obtain Sleep discounts off list prices from providers. I study hospital responses to the advent of price competition in California over the 1984-1988 period. I note that, due to the nature of hospital bargaining with PPOs, hospitals should face more competitive pressure in hospital markets that arc more competitive ex-ante. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that hospital net prices declined in more ex-ante competitive areas in California after the arrival of PPOs. Hospital average costs did not decline in more competitive areas, however, indicating that there was a reduction in hospital markups. Care to the uninsured by hospitals. which is financed out of markups, fell substantially as competitive pressure grew; there was a 50 cent reduction in uncompensated care for every one dollar rise in discounts to private payers.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4190.

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Date of creation: Oct 1992
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Journal of Health Economics, July 1994
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4190
Note: HC PE
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  1. Noether, Monica, 1988. "Competition among hospitals," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 259-284, September.
  2. White, Halbert, 1980. "A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 817-38, May.
  3. Zwanziger, Jack & Melnick, Glenn A., 1988. "The effects of hospital competition and the Medicare PPS program on hospital cost behavior in California," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(4), pages 301-320, December.
  4. Weisbrod, Burton A, 1991. "The Health Care Quadrilemma: An Essay on Technological Change, Insurance, Quality of Care, and Cost Containment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 29(2), pages 523-52, June.
  5. Dranove, David & Shanley, Mark & White, William D, 1993. "Price and Concentration in Hospital Markets: The Switch from Patient-Driven to Payer-Driven Competition," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(1), pages 179-204, April.
  6. Richard G. Frank & David S. Salkever, 1991. "The Supply of Charity Services by Nonprofit Hospitals: Motives and Market Structure," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(3), pages 430-445, Autumn.
  7. Mark A. Satterthwaite, 1979. "Consumer Information, Equilibrium Industry Price, and the Number of Sellers," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(2), pages 483-502, Autumn.
  8. Robinson, James C. & Luft, Harold S., 1985. "The impact of hospital market structure on patient volume, average length of stay, and the cost of care," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(4), pages 333-356, December.
  9. Thorpe, Kenneth E & Phelps, Charles E, 1991. "The Social Role of Not-for-Profit Organizations: Hospital Provision of Charity Care," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 29(3), pages 472-84, July.
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