Pricing and Welfare in Health Plan Choice

Pricing and Welfare in Health Plan Choice

By
M. Kate Bundorf, Jonathan Levin, Neale Mahoney
American Economic Review. December
2012, Vol. 102, Issue 7, Pages 3214-3248

Premiums in health insurance markets frequently do not reflect individual differences in costs, either because consumers have private information or because prices are not risk rated. This creates inefficiencies when consumers self-select into plans. We develop a simple econometric model to study this problem and estimate it using data on small employers. We find a welfare loss of 2-11 percent of coverage costs compared to what is feasible with risk rating. Only about one-quarter of this is due to inefficiently chosen uniform contribution levels. We also investigate the reclassification risk created by risk rating individual incremental premiums, finding only a modest welfare cost.