Stuart Craig is a doctoral student at the Wharton School in the department of Healthcare Management and Economics. His research is primarily focused on bargaining in business-to-business markets. Prior to the doctoral program, he worked as a statistician in the Economics Department at Yale University, using big data to explore determinants of health care spending. He is currently studying insurer strategy and the effects of hospital mergers.
Abstract: We use insurance claims data covering 28 percent of individuals with employer-sponsored health insurance in the US to study the variation in health spending on the privately insured, examine the structure of insurer-hospital contracts, and analyze the variation in hospital prices across the nation. Health spending per privately insured beneficiary differs by a factor of three across geographic areas and has a very low correlation with Medicare spending. For the privately insured, half of the spending variation is driven by price variation across regions and half is driven by quantity variation. Prices vary substantially across regions, across hospitals within regions, and even within hospitals. For example, even for a near homogenous service such as lower-limb MRIs, about a fifth of the total case-level price variation occurs within a hospital in the cross-section. Hospital market structure is strongly associated with price levels and contract structure. Prices at monopoly hospitals are 12 percent higher than those in markets with four or more rivals. Monopoly hospitals also have contracts that load more risk on insurers (e.g. they have more cases with prices set as a share of their charges). In concentrated insurer markets the opposite occurs – hospitals have lower prices and bear more financial risk. Examining the 366 mergers and acquisitions that occurred between 2007 and 2011, we find that prices increased by over 6 percent when the merging hospitals were geographically close (e.g. 5 miles or less apart), but not when the hospitals were geographically distant (e.g. over 25 miles apart).
Abstract: We estimate the effects of horizontal mergers on marginal cost efficiencies – a ubiquitous merger justification – using data containing supply purchase orders from a large sample of US hospitals 2009-2015. The data provide a level of detail that has been difficult to observe previously, and a variety of product categories that allows us to examine economic mechanisms underlying “buyer power.” We find that merger target hospitals save on average $176 thousand (or 1.5 percent) annually, driven by geographically local efficiencies in price negotiations for high-tech “physician preference items.” We find only mixed evidence on savings by acquirers.