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The influence of supplementary health insurance on switching behaviour: evidence from Swiss data.
This paper focuses on the switching behaviour of enrolees in the Swiss basic health insurance system. Even though the new Federal Law on Social Health Insurance (LAMal) was implemented in 1996 to promote competition among health insurers in basic insurance, there is limited evidence of premium convergence within cantons. This indicates that competition has not been effective so far, and reveals some inertia among consumers who seem reluctant to switch to less expensive funds. We investigate one possible barrier to switching behaviour, namely the influence of supplementary insurance. We use survey data on health plan choice (a sample of 1943 individuals whose switching behaviours were observed between 1997 and 2000) as well as administrative data relative to all insurance companies that operated in the 26 Swiss cantons between 1996 and 2005. The decision to switch and the decision to subscribe to a supplementary contract are jointly estimated.Our findings show that holding a supplementary insurance contract substantially decreases the propensity to switch. However, there is no negative impact of supplementary insurance on switching when the individual assesses his/her health as 'very good'. Our results give empirical support to one possible mechanism through which supplementary insurance might influence switching decisions: given that subscribing to basic and supplementary contracts with two different insurers may induce some administrative costs for the subscriber, holding supplementary insurance acts as a barrier to switch if customers who consider themselves 'bad risks' also believe that insurers reject applications for supplementary insurance on these grounds. In comparison with previous research, our main contribution is to offer a possible explanation for consumer inertia. Our analysis illustrates how consumer choice for one's basic health plan interacts with the decision to subscribe to supplementary insurance.
Competition In Health Insurance, Switching Behaviour, Premium Convergence, Supplementary Insurance, Quality Information, Managed Competition, Plan Choices, Price, Elasticities
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