Demand Heterogeneity in Insurance Markets: Implications for Equity and Efficiency

Michael Geruso

NBER Working Paper No. 22440
Issued in July 2016, Revised in January 2017
NBER Program(s):Aging, Health Care, Health Economics, Public Economics

In many markets insurers are barred from price discrimination based on consumer characteristics like age, gender, and medical history. In this paper, I build on a recent literature to show why such policies are inefficient if consumers differ in their willingness-to-pay for insurance conditional on the insured losses they generate. Using administrative claims data, I then show that this type of demand heterogeneity is empirically relevant in a consumer health plan setting. Younger and older consumers and men and women reveal strikingly different demand for health insurance, conditional on their objective medical spending risk. This implies that these groups must face different prices in order to sort themselves efficiently across insurance contracts. The theoretical and empirical analysis highlights a fundamental tradeoff between equity and efficiency that is unique to selection markets.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22440

Published: Michael Geruso, 2017. "Demand heterogeneity in insurance markets: Implications for equity and efficiency," Quantitative Economics, vol 8(3), pages 929-975.

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