Economics Department Seminar
How Product Standardization Affects Choice: Evidence from the Massachusetts Health Insurance
Sponsored by: Economics Department
Speaker(s): Amanda Starc, Ph.D., Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
Date & Time: Thursday, Sep. 19, 2013 from 4:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Please join the Economics Department for a research seminar. This event is open to all Case Western Reserve University faculty, Ph.D. students, economic majors and minors, and those interested in economics research. Abstract is below.
Standardization of complex products is touted as improving consumer decisions
and intensifying price competition, but evidence on standardization is limited. We
examine a natural experiment with health insurance plans on the Massachusetts Health
Insurance Exchange. Pre-standardization, ?rms had wide latitude to design plans. A
regulatory change then required ?rms to standardize the cost-sharing parameters of
plans and o¤er seven de?ned options; plans remained di¤erentiated on network, brand,
and price. Post-standardization, consumers shifted to relatively more generous health
insurance plans. A discrete choice model shows that this shift is explained by changes
in consumer valuation of plan attributes, rather than changes in product availability.
Standardization increased welfare in our models, but counterfactual exercises show
that ?rms captured some of the surplus by reoptimizing premiums. Finally, we use
hypothetical choice experiments to replicate the e¤ect of standardization and conduct
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