DP14394 Reclassification Risk in the Small Group Health Insurance Market

Author(s): Sebastian Fleitas, Gautam Gowrisankaran, Anthony Lo Sasso
Publication Date: February 2020
Keyword(s): Adverse Selection, experience rating, guaranteed renewability, inertia, Pass through
JEL(s):
Programme Areas: Industrial Organization
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14394

We evaluate reclassification risk in the small group health insurance market from a period before ACA community rating regulations. Reclassification risk in this setting is of key policy relevance and also a matter of debate. We use detailed claims and premiums data from a large insurance company and control non-parametrically for selection. We find a pass through of 16% from changes in health risk to changes in premiums, with a stronger equilibrium relationship between premiums and risk. This pattern is consistent with the insurer implicitly offering "guaranteed renewability'' contracts with one-sided pricing commitment. We further find that groups whose health risk decreases have premiums that are more responsive to risk, which the guaranteed renewability model attributes to ex post renegotiation. The observed pricing policy adds 60% of the consumer welfare gain from community rating relative to experience rating. The welfare gains are limited because employers and employees switch coverage frequently.