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Regulatory Redistribution in the Market for Health Insurance

Apr 2012
Working Paper
11-011
By  Jeffrey Clemens
In the early 1990s, several US states enacted community rating regulations to equalize the private health insurance premiums paid by the healthy and the sick. Consistent with severe adverse selection pressures, their private coverage rates fell by 8-11 percentage points more than rates in comparable markets over subsequent years. By the early 2000s, however, most of these losses had been recovered. The recoveries were coincident with substantial public insurance expansions (for unhealthy adults, pregnant women, and children) and were largest in the markets where public coverage of unhealthy adults expanded most. The analysis highlights an important linkage between the incidence of public insurance programs and redistributive regulations. When targeted at the sick, public insurance expansions can relieve the distortions associated with premium regulations, potentially crowding in private coverage. Such expansions will look particularly attractive to participants in community-rated insurance markets when a federal government shares in the cost of local public insurance programs.