Whether you love the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange system, hate it, or are simply covering your eyes and ears and thinking about warm cocoa until it goes away, it may turn out to be a feast for economists.
Health care economists often use the start of a government health program, or a change in an existing program, to get information about how various big and subtle program choices affect people’s behavior.
In Washington state, a team of four University of Washington economists — Anirban Basu, Norma Coe, David Grembowski and Larry Kessler — has tried to measure how political polarization might affect consumer interest in Washington state’s state-based Washington Healthplanfinder exchange, in a paper published behind a paywall at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Washington state had a reputation for setting up a PPACA exchange enrollment system that worked reasonably well during the first open enrollment season, which lasted from Oct. 1, 2013, through mid-April 2014. The exchange enrolled a total of about 164,000 residents in private qualified health plan (QHP) coverage.
The economists studied the effects of politics on the market in late 2013, by mailing questionnaires to 40,000 resident households with at least one member ages 18 to 64. The economists received about 4,200 responses.
To find out what the economists learned from analyzing the survey data, read on.
1. Whether consumers said they thought the Supreme Court was right to uphold PPACA or not had little correlation with how likely they were to plan to buy coverage through a public exchange.
The economists developed a collection of seven similar models, or sets of equations, to try to estimate the effect of six variables on the likelihood that a Washington state resident would express an interest in buying health coverage from the Washington state exchange.
The first model included one of the six variables. The second, two of the six variables, and so on.
The economists looked to see whether adding any particular variable had an obvious effect on interest in using the public exchange system.