Focus Areas Overview
The center supports theoretical and empirical research that studies competition and regulation across a wide range of important market settings. Key topic areas include (i) empirical analysis of market power (ii) innovation (iii) consumer choice frictions (iv) markets with adverse selection (v) firm productivity and (vi) firm product positioning. The center supports conferences and seminars related to these topic areas, provides grants for researchers working on these topics and disseminates research to academics, businesses and policymakers.
Health Care Markets
The center supports research across the wide spectrum of economic issues related to health care markets. Key topic areas include (i) insurance market design and regulation (ii) incentive design for medical providers (iii) adoption of information technology to promote efficiency health care utilization (iv) consumer health behaviors (v) consumer insurance literacy and (vi) consumer health literacy.
The center supports research related to the study of consumer decision-making, with an emphasis on (i) the mechanisms underlying consumers mistakes in markets for complex products (ii) the market and welfare implications of those mistakes and (iii) policy solutions to facilitating better decisions and improved consumer welfare in key product markets.
High-Deductible health plans
Recent Gilbert Center research by Zarek Brot-Golberg, Amitabh Chandra, Ben Handel and Jon Kolstad published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics highlights the complex economics of high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), a common tool used by business and policymakers to try and reduce health care spending. The research uses unique data from a large employer who switched employees to high-deductible care to show that HDHPs reduce total medical spending but that these reductions are achieved by consumers using less health care, rather than via increased consumer price shopping. Patients reduce care that is valuable (e.g. preventive care, drugs for chronic conditions) as well as care that is likely wasteful. Consumers exhibit a lack of sophistication in response to the complex cost-sharing features embedded in the non-linear HDHP plan design, with meaningful implications for spending and consumer well-being across a range of domains with complex financial products.
long term health insurance contracts
Recent Gilbert Center research by Ben Handel, Igal Hendel and Mike Whinston studies the welfare implications of long-term health insurance contracts where an insurer commits to offering the contract at a series of contingent prices over a long time horizon. The authors integrate detailed health claims and health plan choice data from several sources to study the welfare implications of dynamic contracts relative to (i) a typical current ACA insurance exchange and (ii) optimal long-run contracts with two-sided commitment. The research also investigates (i) the implications of different lifetime income paths and savings decisions for the effectiveness of dynamic contracts and (ii) current impediments to the implementation of dynamic contracts.
quantifying choice frictions and mental gaps
Recent Gilbert Center research by Ben Handel and Josh Schwartzstein studies empirical methods to quantify choice frictions and mental gaps across a range of key topic areas such as health care, taxation, financial investments, and agricultural productivity. The research illustrates the difficulties that researchers have faced in distinguishing between the mechanisms underlying poor consumer choices in these domains and suggests several avenues that researchers can use to draw meaningful policy and welfare conclusions without a detailed understanding of these mechanisms.