The Insurance Value of Medical Innovation

37 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2015 Last revised: 25 Mar 2015

See all articles by Darius N. Lakdawalla

Darius N. Lakdawalla

University of Southern California - Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics; RAND Corporation; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Anup Malani

University of Chicago - Law School; University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine; Resources for the Future; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Julian Reif

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Date Written: March 2015

Abstract

Economists think of medical innovation as a valuable but risky good, producing health benefits but increasing financial risk. This perspective overlooks how innovation can lower physical risks borne by healthy patients facing the prospect of future disease. We present an alternative framework that accounts for all these aspects of value and links them to the value of health insurance. We show that any innovation worth buying reduces overall risk, thereby generating positive insurance value on its own. We conduct two empirical exercises to assess the significance of our insights. First, we calculate that conventional methods underestimate the value of historical health gains by 30-80%. Second, we examine a large set of medical technologies and calculate that insurance value on average adds 100% to the conventional valuation of those treatments. Moreover, we find that the physical risk-reduction value of these technologies is ten times greater than the financial risk they pose and the corresponding value of health insurance that insures this financial risk. Our analysis also suggests standard methods disproportionately undervalue treatments for the most severe illnesses, where physical risk to consumers is most costly.

Suggested Citation

Lakdawalla, Darius N. and Malani, Anup and Reif, Julian, The Insurance Value of Medical Innovation (March 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w21015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2578843

Darius N. Lakdawalla (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics ( email )

635 Downey Way
Los Angeles, CA 90089-3333
United States

RAND Corporation ( email )

P.O. Box 2138
1700 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Anup Malani

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-9602 (Phone)
773-702-0730 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/malani/

University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine

Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Resources for the Future

1616 P Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Julian Reif

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ( email )

601 E John St
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.julianreif.com

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