U.S. policymakers, scholars, and advocates have long displayed an ideological commitment to exposing insured patients to substantial out-of-pocket expenses. These commitments derive from both overt political ideologies, which favor individual responsibility and oppose redistribution of wealth and risks, as well as more-subtle ideological commitments of academic economists, which link observed patterns of consumption to value-claims about welfare. In this symposium contribution, we document those ideological commitments and juxtapose them with a review of the scientific evidence about the actual effects of patient cost-sharing. We find, as economic theory predicts, that patients exposed to healthcare costs consume less healthcare. However, a fair review of the evidence — including the effects on health outcomes, access to care, and financial insecurity — makes it very hard to conclude that substantial and untailored cost-sharing exposure — as we have seen in actual application — is good social policy. We suggest directions for future study and reform.
Spillovers can arise in markets with multiple purchasers relying on shared producers. If producers are constrained in their ability to adjust quality and cost across purchasers, then the influence of a dominant purchaser affects the entire market. Prior studies have found such spillovers in health care, from managed care to non-managed care populations — reducing spending, utilization, and improving outcomes. Similar effects have been identified in the Medicare Advantage market as well, with studies finding declines in utilization and reductions in resource use among the Traditional Medicare population associated with increases in county-level Medicare Advantage penetration. However, no study to date has provided plausibly causal estimates of such spillovers in the post-Affordable Care Act era. Our study does so by exploiting idiosyncratic differences in payments to Medicare Advantage plans that are unrelated to traditional Medicare spending. Further controlling for health status and other potential confounders, we estimate that a one percentage point increase in county-level Medicare Advantage penetration results in a $146 (1.7%) reduction in standardized per enrollee Traditional Medicare spending. We find evidence for reductions in utilization both on the intensive and extensive margins (including reductions in the number of inpatient stays) and across many types of health care services, not all of which have been analyzed in prior Medicare Advantage spillover studies. Our results suggest that spillovers from Medicare Advantage to Traditional Medicare have persisted in the post-Affordable Care Act era.
We re-visit the relationship between private health insurance mandates, access to employer-sponsored health insurance, and labor market outcomes using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979. We model employer-sponsored health insurance access and labor market outcomes across the lifecycle as a function of the number of high cost mandates in place at labor market entrance. We find no evidence that high cost state health insurance mandates discourage employers from offering insurance to employees. Employers adjust wages and labor demand to offset mandate costs. Mandate effects are persistent but not permanent. We document heterogeneity across worker-types.
Since 2006, the Dutch population has faced two different cost-sharing schemes in health insurance for curative care: a mandatory rebate of 255 euros in 2006 and 2007, and since 2008 a mandatory deductible. Using administrative data for the entire Dutch population, we compare the effect of both cost-sharing schemes on healthcare consumption between 2006 and 2013. We use a regression discontinuity design which exploits the fact that persons younger than eighteen years old neither face a rebate nor a deductible. Our fixed effect estimate shows that for individuals around the age of eighteen, a one euro increase of the deductible reduces healthcare expenditures 18 eurocents more than a euro increase of the rebate. These results demonstrate that differences in the design of a cost-sharing scheme can lead to substantial different effects on total healthcare expenditure.
Market-based health reform solutions dominate the post-Affordable Care Act landscape. Under these plans, competition is supposed to bring down ballooning prices, and patients are to act more like consumers, refusing low-value, medically unnecessary care. Whether one embraces these solutions, one thing is clear: they cannot work absent price transparency—which the U.S. system lacks. To the contrary, the law explicitly enforces open price term contracts between patients and providers.
This Article is the first to synthesize theories of incomplete contracts from traditional law and economics and recent work in the behavioral sciences and to apply these theories to the price transparency problem. It argues that doctrine is out of step with theory, and proposes a contract law solution: an information-forcing penalty default rule. Courts should impose an undesirable default to force the parties to contract around the default. When providers fail to include a price, and it would have been reasonable to do so, courts should fill the gap with a price of $0. Rather than risk not being paid, providers will include a price in the patient contract. Legislative action has been both slow and ineffective in fixing the crucial price transparency problem. At no other time in recent memory has the importance of contract theory been put into such sharp relief and, remarkably, in an area of law that is at the very core of the emerging political economy.
This paper describes current pattern of insurance coverage for precision medicines and, especially, companion diagnostics and explores what coverage would improve efficiency. We find that currently coverage is common for tests and treatments with clinical acceptance used at high volumes but is haphazard across both private insurers and Medicare for precision medicines in general. Analysis of the case of homogenous patient preferences finds that discovery and use of the test that converts an ordinary drug into a precision drug can either increase or decrease total spending, and might call for full or no coverage of test and treatments. Heterogeneity in marginal benefits from testing and treatment can call for partial coverage. Finally, varying threshold levels for diagnostic test results can lead to a demand curve to test and treatment that calls for partial cost sharing. Numerical examples and case studies of several test-treatment combinations illustrate these points.
Cases of health care fraud have been on the rise in recent years and are believed to continue to increase over time. Every year a significant amount of the federal healthcare budget is lost to fraudulent claims by providers and/or to government agencies involved with the enforcement of the healthcare laws and prosecution of offenders. This study investigates the reasons for committing fraud and finds that the primary contributing factors are the explosion in the size of health care spending and the ever expanding network of providers and subscribers of health care services causing wide access to the system.
While fraud is committed against both public and private health care agencies, the primary emphasis for prevention and reporting of fraud is on the public side (Rosenbaum et. al., 2009). The research investigates whether there are any differences in public attitudes towards fraud committed against the public agencies versus the private insurance companies. The study selects two equal samples and mails to each group a survey that includes similar questions pertaining to either Medicare/Medicaid or private insurance companies. The results show that both groups of participants view the fee-for-service payment system where doctors and other providers are tempted to perform or bill for unnecessary services as the most important reason for fraud. In addition, both groups rated double billing and incorrect reporting of diagnosis or procedures as the top two schemes committed against health care agencies.