Lifetime Fairness? Taxes, Subsidies, Age-Based Penalties, and the Price of Health Insurance in Australia
Abstract Australia has voluntary private health insurance (PHI) markets in which open enrolment and community rated premiums are mandated by government. Historically, adverse selection in these markets led to a substantial decline in coverage, giving voice to fears about the viability of PHI markets in the longer-run. In order to preserve community rating but improve the PHI pool, the Australian Government instituted a novel scheme of age-based penalties (ABPs) for individuals who join a PHI fund later in life. This paper computes the price of health insurance under the so-called Lifetime Cover (LC) scheme and shows that the LC scheme per se is not appropriately calibrated to prevent another adverse selection death spiral (Butler 2002). Based on our results, we recompute age-based penalties that would result in a fair price of PHI for all age groups. The premium multipliers we derive suggest a premium ratio of 10:1 for the oldest and youngest joiners. Our premium multiplier sequence is well-approximated by a linear ABP scheme that is approximately three times that of the present LC scheme for older joiners.
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