Here’s a pretty simple point but one that seems to be getting lost in the “discussion.”

Insurance is plagued by an incentive problem. In an ideal insurance contract the insuree receives, in the event of a loss or unanticipated expense, a payment that equals the full value of that loss. This smooths out risk and improves welfare. The problem is that by eliminating risk the contract also removes the incentive to take actions that would reduce that risk. This lowers welfare.

In order to combat this problem the contracts that are actually offered are second-best: they eliminate some risk but not all. The insured is left exposed to just enough risk so that he has a private incentive to take actions that reduce it. The incentive problem is solved but at the cost of less-than-full insurance.

But building on this idea, there are often other instruments available that can do even better. For example suppose that you can take prophylactic measures (swish!) that are verifiable to the insurance provider. Then at the margin welfare is improved by a contract which increases insurance coverage and subsidizes the prophylaxis.

That is, you give them condoms. For free. As much as they want.

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