Hospital Tiers in Health Insurance: Balancing Consumer Choice with Financial Incentives

March 2003
Robinson JC

 Health Affairs - March 2003

Variations in efficiency and market power are generating wide variations in the prices charged by hospitals to health insurance plans. Insurers are developing new network structures that expose the consumer to some of the cost differences, to encourage but not mandate differential use of the more economical facilities. The three leading designs include hospital "tiers" within a single broad network, multiple-network products, and the replacement of copayments by coinsurance in HMO as well as PPO products. This paper describes the new network designs and evaluates the challenges they face in influencing consumers’ behavior, incorporating information on clinical quality, and supporting medical education and uncompensated care.