Ching-to Albert Ma and Thomas G. McGuire

Paying For Joint Costs in Health Care

The paper analyzes a regulatory game between a public and a private payer to finance hospital joint costs (mainly capital and technology expenses). The public payer (inspired by the federal Medicare program) may both directly reimburse for joint costs (“pass-through” payments) and add a margin over variable costs paid per discharge, while the private payer can only use a margin policy. The hospital chooses joint costs in response to payers’ overall payment incentives. Without pass-through payments, under provision of joint costs results front free-riding behavior of payers and the first-mover advantage of the public payer. Using pass-through policy in its self-interest, the public payer actually may moderate the under provision of joint costs; under some conditions, the equilibrium allocation may be socially efficient. Our results bear directly on directly Medicare policy, which is phasing out pass-through payments.