Econometrica: Sep 2013, Volume 81, Issue 5
Private Information and Insurance Rejections
Nathaniel HendrenAcross a wide set of nongroup insurance markets, applicants are rejected based on observable, often high‐risk, characteristics. This paper argues that private information, held by the potential applicant pool, explains rejections. I formulate this argument by developing and testing a model in which agents may have private information about their risk. I first derive a new no‐trade result that theoretically explains how private information could cause rejections. I then develop a new empirical methodology to test whether this no‐trade condition can explain rejections. The methodology uses subjective probability elicitations as noisy measures of agents' beliefs. I apply this approach to three nongroup markets: long‐term care, disability, and life insurance. Consistent with the predictions of the theory, in all three settings I find significant amounts of private information held by those who would be rejected; I find generally more private information for those who would be rejected relative to those who can purchase insurance, and I show it is enough private information to explain a complete absence of trade for those who would be rejected. The results suggest that private information prevents the existence of large segments of these three major insurance markets.
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