Price Regulation in Secondary Insurance Markets

Published in: The Journal of Risk and Insurance, v. 71, no. 4, Dec. 2004, p. 643-675

by Jay Bhattacharya, Dana P. Goldman, Neeraj Sood

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Secondary life insurance markets are growing rapidly. From nearly no transactions in 1980, a wide variety of similar products in this market has developed, including viatical settlements, accelerated death benefits, and life settlements and as the population ages, these markets will become increasingly popular. Eight state governments, in a bid to guarantee sellers a fair price, have passed regulations setting a price floor on secondary life insurance market transactions, and more are considering doing the same. Using data from a unique random sample of HIV+ patients, we estimate welfare losses from transactions prevented by binding price floors in the viatical settlements market (an important segment of the secondary life insurance market). We find that price floors bind on HIV patients with greater than 4 years of life expectancy. Furthermore, HIV patients from states with price floors are significantly less likely to viaticate than similarly healthy HIV patients from other states. If price floors were adopted nationwide, they would rule out transactions worth $119 million per year. The authors find that the magnitude of welfare loss from these blocked transactions would be highest for consumers who are relatively poor, have weak bequest motives, and have a high rate of time preference.

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