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Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
Working Paper Series
Learning and the value of information: the case of health plan report cards
Michael Chernew
Gautam Gowrisankaran
Dennis P. Scanlon
Abstract

We estimate a Bayesian learning model in order to assess the value of health plan performance information and the extent to which the explicit provision of information about product quality alters consumer behavior. We take advantage of a natural experiment in which health plan performance information for HMOs was released to employees of a Fortune 50 company for the first time. Our empirical work indicates that the release of information had a small but statistically significant effect on health plan choices, causing 3.1% of employees to switch health plans. Although consumers were willing to pay an extra $267 per year per below average rating avoided, the average value of the information per employee was only $10 per year. The relatively small impact of the ratings arises because the ratings were estimated to be very imprecise measures of quality. More precise measures of quality could have been more valuable.


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Michael Chernew & Gautam Gowrisankaran & Dennis P. Scanlon, Learning and the value of information: the case of health plan report cards, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Working Paper Series 2002-17, 2002.
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Keywords: Medical care ; Medical care; Cost of
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