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J Health Econ. 2013 Dec;32(6):1301-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2013.09.004.

Competitive bidding in Medicare Advantage: effect of benchmark changes on plan bids.

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  • 1Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA. Electronic address:


Bidding has been proposed to replace or complement the administered prices that Medicare pays to hospitals and health plans. In 2006, the Medicare Advantage program implemented a competitive bidding system to determine plan payments. In perfectly competitive models, plans bid their costs and thus bids are insensitive to the benchmark. Under many other models of competition, bids respond to changes in the benchmark. We conceptualize the bidding system and use an instrumental variable approach to study the effect of benchmark changes on bids. We use 2006-2010 plan payment data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, published county benchmarks, actual realized fee-for-service costs, and Medicare Advantage enrollment. We find that a $1 increase in the benchmark leads to about a $0.53 increase in bids, suggesting that plans in the Medicare Advantage market have meaningful market power.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Competitive bidding; Health care reform; I11; I13; L13; Medicare Advantage; Medicare financing; Premium support

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