Health Insurance as a Two-Part Pricing Contract

Published In: NBER Working Paper no. 12681 (Cambridge MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, Nov. 2006)

Posted on RAND.org on November 01, 2006

by Darius N. Lakdawalla, Neeraj Sood

Read More

Access further information on this document at www.nber.org

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

Monopolies appear throughout health care markets, as a result of patents, limits to the extent of the market, or the presence of unique inputs and skills. In the health care industry, however, the deadweight costs of monopoly may be small or even absent. Health insurance, frequently implemented as an ex ante premium coupled with an ex post co-payment per unit consumed, effectively operates as a two-part pricing contract. This allows monopolists to extract consumer surplus without inefficiently constraining quantity. This view of health insurance contracts has several implications: (1) Low ex post copayments to insured consumers substantially reduce deadweight losses from medical care monopolies -- we calculate, for instance, that the presence of health insurance lowers monopoly loss in the US pharmaceutical market by 82 percent; (2) Price regulation or break-up of health care monopolies may be inferior to laissez-faire or simple redistribution of monopoly profits; and (3) Promoting efficiency in the health insurance market can reduce static losses in the goods market while improving the dynamic efficiency of innovation.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.