• Reading list

    The Demand for Health Insurance Among Uninsured Americans: Results of a Survey Experiment and Implications for Policy, by Alan B. Krueger, Ilyana Kuziemko (NBER working paper)

    Most existing work on the price elasticity of demand for health insurance focuses on employees’ decisions to enroll in employer-provided plans. Yet any attempt to achieve universal coverage must focus on the uninsured, the vast majority of whom are not offered employer-sponsored insurance. In the summer of 2008, we conducted a survey experiment to assess the willingness to pay for a health plan among a large sample of uninsured Americans. The experiment yields price elasticities substantially greater than those found in most previous studies. We use these results to estimate coverage expansion under the Affordable Care Act, with and without an individual mandate. We estimate that 39 million uninsured individuals would gain coverage and find limited evidence of adverse selection.

    How does Risk Selection Respond to Risk Adjustment? Evidence from the Medicare Advantage Program, by Jason Brown, Mark Duggan, Ilyana Kuziemko, William Woolston (NBER working paper)

    Governments often contract with private firms to provide public services such as health care and education. To decrease firms’ incentives to selectively enroll low-cost individuals, governments frequently “risk-adjust” payments to firms based on enrollees’ characteristics. We model how risk adjustment affects selection and differential payments—the government’s payments to a firm for covering an individual minus the counterfactual cost had the government directly covered her. We show that firms reduce selection along dimensions included in the risk-adjustment formula, while increasing selection along excluded dimensions. These responses can actually increase differential payments relative to pre-risk-adjustment levels and thus risk adjustment can raise the total cost to the government of providing the public service. We confirm both selection predictions using individual-level data from Medicare, which in 2004 began risk-adjusting payments to private Medicare Advantage plans. We find that differential payments actually rise after risk adjustment and estimate that they totaled $30 billion in 2006, or nearly eight percent of total Medicare spending.

    Selection on Moral Hazard in Health Insurance, by Liran Einav, Amy Finkelstein, Stephen P. Ryan, Paul Schrimpf, Mark R. Cullen (NBER working paper)

    In this paper we explore the possibility that individuals may select insurance coverage in part based on their anticipated behavioral response to the insurance contract. Such “selection on moral hazard” can have important implications for attempts to combat either selection or moral hazard. We explore these issues using individual-level panel data from a single firm, which contain information about health insurance options, choices, and subsequent claims. To identify the behavioral response to health insurance coverage and the heterogeneity in it, we take advantage of a change in the health insurance options offered to some, but not all of the firm’s employees. We begin with descriptive evidence that is suggestive of both heterogeneous moral hazard as well as selection on it, with individuals who select more coverage also appearing to exhibit greater behavioral response to that coverage. To formalize this analysis and explore its implications, we develop and estimate a model of plan choice and medical utilization. The results from the modeling exercise echo the descriptive evidence, and allow for further explorations of the interaction between selection and moral hazard. For example, one implication of our estimates is that abstracting from selection on moral hazard could lead one to substantially over-estimate the spending reduction associated with introducing a high deductible health insurance option.

    High-Risk Pools — Merely a Stopgap Reform, by Linda J. Blumberg (NEJM)

    Reforming Medicare — Toward a Modified Ryan Plan, by Gail R. Wilensky (NEJM)

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