Monday, July 18, 2016

Insurance makes sellers of services dishonest.

This piece from Kerschbamer et al. really resonates with my experiences in Florida, scam central for health insurance fraud:
Honesty is a fundamental pillar for cooperation in human societies and thus for their economic welfare. However, humans do not always act in an honest way. Here, we examine how insurance coverage affects the degree of honesty in credence goods markets. Such markets are plagued by strong incentives for fraudulent behavior of sellers, resulting in estimated annual costs of billions of dollars to customers and the society as a whole. Prime examples of credence goods are all kinds of repair services, the provision of medical treatments, the sale of software programs, and the provision of taxi rides in unfamiliar cities. We examine in a natural field experiment how computer repair shops take advantage of customers’ insurance for repair costs. In a control treatment, the average repair price is about EUR 70, whereas the repair bill increases by more than 80% when the service provider is informed that an insurance would reimburse the bill. Our design allows decomposing the sources of this economically impressive difference, showing that it is mainly due to the overprovision of parts and overcharging of working time. A survey among repair shops shows that the higher bills are mainly ascribed to insured customers being less likely to be concerned about minimizing costs because a third party (the insurer) pays the bill. Overall, our results strongly suggest that insurance coverage greatly increases the extent of dishonesty in important sectors of the economy with potentially huge costs to customers and whole economies.

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