Public option and private profits
- Dr Fabio Milani
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The debate on US healthcare reform has largely focused on the introduction of a public health plan option. While supporters stress various beneficial effects that would arise from increased competition in the health insurance market, opponents often contend that a public plan would drive insurers out of the market and potentially lead to the ‘collapse’ of the private health insurance industry.
To contribute to the US healthcare reform debate by inferring, from financial market data, the effect that the public option is likely to have on the private health insurance market.
The study utilized daily data on the price of a security that was traded in a prediction market from June 2009 and whose pay-off was tied to the event that a federal government-run healthcare plan — the ‘public option’ - would be approved by 31 December 2009 (100 daily observations). These data were combined with data on stock returns of health insurance companies (1500 observations from 100 trading days and 15 companies) to evaluate the expected effect of the public option on private health insurers. The impact on hospital companies (1000 observations) was also estimated.
The results suggested that daily stock returns of health insurance companies significantly responded to the changing probability regarding the public option. A 10% increase in the probability that the public option would pass, on average, reduced the stock returns of health insurance companies by 1.28% (p < 0.001). Hospital company stock returns were also affected (0.9% reduction; p < 0.001).
The results reveal the market expectation of a negative effect of the public option on the value of health insurance companies. The magnitude of the effect suggests a downward adjustment in the expected profits of health insurers of around 13%, but it does not support more calamitous scenarios.
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- Public option and private profits
Applied Health Economics and Health Policy
Volume 8, Issue 3 , pp 155-165
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- Springer International Publishing
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- Dr Fabio Milani (1)
- Author Affiliations
- 1. Department of Economics, University of California, Irvine, CA, 92697-5100, USA