In this paper we propose a simple, market based mechanism to set prices in health care markets, namely a system where the patients are auctioned out to the hospitals. Our aim is to characterize principles as to how such an auction should be designed. In the case of elective treatment, health authorities thus organize a competition between hospitals. The hospital with the lowest price signs a contracts with authority (or the insurer) that commits him to treat a given number of patients within a predetermined period. However, this is not a simple mechanism that identi…es the hospital with the lowest treatment cost. Due to potentially rapid and unpredictable shifts in demand, treatment capacity may be hard to know in advance. There is always a risk that treatment must be canceled due to arrival of patients that require acute treatment. This calls for a market design that accounts for the risk of default. Our main result is that the expected cost for the government is reduced if the government chooses to ”subsidize” default. This could be thought of as a system in which the government buys treatment in the spot market in the case of default, and let the hospital pay a default fee that is lower than the spot price. The reason why this reduces expected costs for the government is that the e¤ect on the bids is asymmetric: The second lowest bid is on average reduced more than the winning bid. Hence, the winner’s profit tends to shrink. This is due to what we characterize an endogenous correlation. Since the cost of treatment increases in the default risk (as the hospital must pay a penalty if it defaults), high cost hospitals typically have larger default risks than low costs hospitals.
Health care markets; health care; hospitals; competition
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