Research Seminar with Boris Vabson, PhD

Privatizing Government-Sponsored Health Insurance: Medicare Advantage vs. Traditional Medicare
Open to Penn Affiliates

12:00p.m. – 1:00p.m. ET September 17, 2024 In-Person Event

Colonial Penn Center Auditorium, 3641 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA

What are the consequences of privatizing government-sponsored health insurance? We study this in the context of Medicare beneficiaries, half of whom enroll in a privately-administered Medicare Advantage plan rather than the public alternative. We construct a novel dataset that longitudinally links Medicare insurance claims data, both public and private, with commercial insurance claims from prior to Medicare enrollment. We compare those who initially enroll in MA to those who enroll in the public fee-for-service option (FFS), just after age 65 and before, when both groups are enrolled in employer-sponsored insurance. We find that MA reduces health care use by 6% relative to FFS in the first year of enrollment, with larger effects in subsequent years. These effects are driven primarily by the use of managed care policies that impose restrictions on beneficiaries’ use of care. Plans that impose greater managed care restrictions generate greater utilization reductions, as well as greater fiscal savings for the Medicare program, while MA plans without such restrictions generate sizable fiscal costs.

Co-hosted with the Department of Health Care Management.

Please note: In-person attendance at this event is preferred. Virtual access will be provided to registrants who are unable to be on campus.


Boris Vabson, PhD

Research Faculty, Harvard Medical School; Nonresident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute & USC-Schaeffer Center

Boris Vabson is a research faculty member at Harvard Medical School. He is also a nonresident fellow in health policy at the American Enterprise Institute and a nonresident fellow at the USC-Schaeffer Center. His academic research focuses on health insurance payment systems and markets.  Alongside his academic work, Boris is a strategic advisor to several major health tech and health insurance companies.

Boris’s academic work focuses on health insurance payment systems and markets, with a particular focus on Medicaid and Medicare. Boris looks at opportunities for improving the cost-efficiency and performance of the two major programs. He also studies the ongoing privatization of these programs—specifically, how privatization should be structured to optimize outcomes—and the impact of different health insurance design features. His research has been published in top economics journals and covered by major news media outlets, including the NY Times and Bloomberg. His work on Medicare Advantage was named a finalist for the NIHCM Research Awards.

He received his Ph.D. in Applied Economics from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and was also a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at NBER. He received his AB from Dartmouth in Economics and Mathematics.