NBER Working Papers by Abby Alpert

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Working Papers

November 2015Prescription Drug Advertising and Drug Utilization: The Role of Medicare Part D
with Darius Lakdawalla, Neeraj Sood: w21714
Pharmaceutical firms currently spend over $4 billion on direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs, a nearly 30-fold increase since 1993 that has led to much debate about its value to patients. We examine how DTCA influences drug utilization along the extensive and intensive margins by exploiting a large and plausibly exogenous shock to DTCA driven by the introduction of Medicare Part D in 2006. Using data on advertising for local media markets from Nielsen, we show that Part D led to large relative increases in DTCA in geographic areas with a high concentration of Medicare beneficiaries compared to areas with a low concentration. We examine the effects of this sudden differential increase in advertising on non-elderly individuals to isolate the effects of advertising on ...
October 2015Effects of Payment Reform in More versus Less Competitive Markets
with Neeraj Sood, Kayleigh Barnes, Peter Huckfeldt, Jose Escarce: w21654
Policymakers are increasingly interested in reducing healthcare costs and inefficiencies through innovative payment strategies. These strategies may have heterogeneous impacts across geographic areas, potentially reducing or exacerbating geographic variation in healthcare spending. In this paper, we exploit a major payment reform for home health care to examine whether reductions in reimbursement lead to differential changes in treatment intensity and provider costs depending on the level of competition in a market. Using Medicare claims, we find that while providers in more competitive markets had higher average costs in the pre-reform period, these markets experienced larger proportional reductions in treatment intensity and costs after the reform relative to less competitive markets....
August 2013Perverse Reverse Price Competition: Average Wholesale Prices and Medicaid Pharmaceutical Spending
with Mark Duggan, Judith K. Hellerstein: w19367
Generic drugs comprise an increasing share of total prescriptions dispensed in the U.S., rising from nearly 50 percent in 1999 to 75 percent in 2009. The generic drug market has typically been viewed at the wholesale level as a competitive market with price approaching marginal costs. However, the large presence of third party payers as final purchasers may distort prices at the retail level relative to what a standard model of price competition would predict. In this paper, we investigate how generic drug producers compete in the presence of the procurement rules of the Medicaid program. Medicaid reimbursement to pharmacies, like that of other payers, is based on a benchmark price called the average wholesale price (AWP). The AWP is reported by generic producers themselves, and until rece...

Published: Alpert, Abby & Duggan, Mark & Hellerstein, Judith K., 2013. "Perverse reverse price competition: Average wholesale prices and Medicaid pharmaceutical spending," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 44-62. citation courtesy of

March 2005Technology, Monopoly, and the Decline of the Viatical Settlements Industry
with Neeraj Sood, Jay Bhattacharya: w11164
The viatical settlement industry provides an opportunity for terminally-ill consumers, typically HIV patients, to exploit a previously untapped source of equity in existing life insurance contracts to finance consumption and medical expenses. The 1996 introduction and dissemination of effecive anti-HIV medication reduced AIDS mortality, but also reduced viatical settlement prices, even holding fixed changes in life expectancy. Using Freedom of Information Act requests to state insurance regulatory agencies, we have assembled a unique dataset of over twelve thousand viatical transactions from firms licensed in states that regulate viatical settlement markets. We distinguish two explanations for falling prices---an increase in market power, and a change in market expectations about the lik...

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