DP7942 | Insurance Search and Switching Behavior

Publication Date

01/08/2010

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Abstract

This paper looks into the search behavior of consumers in the market for health insurance contracts. We consider the recent health insurance reform in The Netherlands, where a private-public mix of insurance provision was replaced by a system based on managed competition. Although all insurers offer the same basic package (determined by the government), there is substantial premium dispersion. We develop a simple consumer search model containing the main features of the Dutch health insurance system. This model provides us with a number of hypotheses, which we test using data from the Dutch Health Care Consumer Panel. The data confirm the standard predictions on consumer choice (i.e. there is adverse selection and a lower premium increases coverage). We also find that consumers with lower search costs are more likely to receive a group contract offer. This generates a situation of price discrimination where individuals without group contracts and higher search costs pay higher premiums and buy lower insurance coverage.