Can Adverse Selection be Avoided in a Market for Individual Health Insurance?

Medical Care Research and Review
Vol. 56, No. 3
September 1999
Swartz, K., and Garnick, D.W.

Adverse selection is a potentially significant problem in the individual (nongroup) health insurance markets if states use regulations to restrict insurance companies’ ability to select whom they will insure. In 1993, New Jersey implemented the Individual Health Coverage Program (IHCP), presenting an opportunity to test for adverse selection when insurers’ ability to select enrollees is severely restricted. The authors collected socioeconomic, demographic, and health status data from a sample of 2,211 adults covered by IHCP policies and compared the IHCP enrollee characteristics with those of two control groups of New Jersey residents (uninsured adults and adults with employer group insurance). Adverse selection does not appear to have occurred against the IHCP. However, the IHCP premiums were not cheap, and the findings suggest that people who can afford to purchase individual insurance and do so are, on average, healthier than those who do not choose to enroll, probably because the latter cannot afford insurance.

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