Three essays on competition and health insurance markets
Fernandez, Juan Gabriel
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Health care systems are complex organizations. Multiple agents interact in different settings to provide health care, each one of them with different objectives and information. How markets are organized and which actions are allowed, has a direct impact on the incentives agents face when making health care choices. In this dissertation, I study the determinants and effects of these choices on market outcomes, focusing on private health insurance markets. The first chapter provides insights about health insurance markets in which workers, rather than firms , choose insurance plans in an imperfect competition setting. Using a unique dataset that includes every person enrolled in private plans in Chile in 2009, I estimate underlying preference parameters over health insurance features. I find large heterogeneity in the valuation of t hese features across age-sex-groups and individual types. Individual characteristics play an important role on health plan choices and therefore, can be used by insurers to design plans targeted to specific groups and for patient selection. The second chapter presents a theoretical model where private insurers compete with a free public alternative to attract clients. Using a two-type model I show that if private insurance companies offer a non-rationing alternative and the public system rationing is done through random selection, an efficiency trap may exist. A marginal increase in the budget allocated to the public system can potentially reduce the expected welfare for all types. This result extends to a model with multiple types, but the negative welfare impact is offset by a crowding-in effect among the rich. Finally, the third chapter provides a general analytical framework that can be used to evaluate risk selection under different health care models. The model is based on the interactions between the four key agents present in every health care system: sponsors, health plans, providers and customers. This framework is used to review risk selection in four countries in the Americas - Canada, Chile, Colombia, and the U.S.-, showing how regulatory policies both create and ameliorate it, and in some cases are as important as risk adjustment, risk sharing and risk selection strategies for reducing risk selection.
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