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Market Socialism and Community Rating in Health Insurance

Harry Frech and Peter Zweifel ()
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Peter Zweifel: University of Zurich

Comparative Economic Studies, 2017, vol. 59, issue 3, 405-427

Abstract: Almost 100 years ago, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek argued that a socialist state could not determine marginal cost prices and therefore could not allocate resources rationally. Oskar Lange and Abba Lerner responded with the market socialist model. Subsequent scholars have refined the model (Leeman, Roemer). Views on market socialism for an entire economy are mixed (Phelps, Shleifer and Vishny, Roemer). We briefly review the debate. We argue that a form of market socialism exists and is especially important in education, health care, and health insurance. In these sectors, prices are often set or restricted centrally, while many providers are state-owned, nonprofit, or mutual firms. We argue in favor of applying market socialist principles to health care and to health insurance policy. In particular, we show that these principles imply that community rating of health insurance is a source of major inefficiencies and harmful regulatory pressure. We suggest moving in the market socialist direction – toward marginal cost pricing and therefore away from community rating. The desire for universal or expanded coverage can be fulfilled by explicit, politically transparent subsidies paid to consumers who are both poor and high risk.

Keywords: health insurance; market socialism; quasi-markets; pricing; community rating; new public management; corporatization (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I13 P51 P27 I18 D47 B24 D02 L31 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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DOI: 10.1057/s41294-017-0027-3

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