Competition in hospital and health insurance markets: a review and research agenda. uri icon


  • OBJECTIVES: To review the empirical literature on the effects of selective contracting and hospital competition on hospital prices, travel distance, services, and quality; to review the effects of managed care penetration and competition on health insurance premiums; and to identify areas for further research. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Selective contracting has allowed managed care plans to obtain lower prices from hospitals. This finding is generalizable beyond California and is stronger when there is more competition in the hospital market. Travel distances to hospitals of admission have not increased as a result of managed care. Evidence on the diffusion of technology in hospitals and the extent to which hospitals have specialized as a result of managed care is mixed. Little research on the effects on quality has been undertaken, but preliminary evidence suggests that hospital quality has not declined and may have improved. Actual mergers in the hospital market have not affected hospital prices. Much less research has been focused on managed care markets. Greater market penetration and greater competition among managed care plans are associated with lower managed care premiums. Greater HMO penetration appears to be much more effective than PPO penetration in leading to lower premiums. While workers are willing to change plans when faced with higher out-of-pocket premiums, there is little evidence of the willingness of employers to switch plan offerings. Preliminary evidence suggests that greater managed care penetration has led to lower overall employer premiums, but the results differ substantially between employers with and without a self-insured plan. CONCLUSIONS: Much more research is needed to examine all aspects of managed care markets. In hospital markets, particular attention should be focused on the effects on quality and technology diffusion.

author list (cited authors)

  • Morrisey, M. A.

citation count

  • 71

complete list of authors

  • Morrisey, MA