Fair Regression for Health Care Spending

Zink, Anna, Rose, Sherri

arXiv.org Machine Learning 

The distribution of health care payments to insurance plans has substantial consequences for social policy. Risk adjustment formulas predict spending in health insurance markets in order to provide fair benefits and health care coverage for all enrollees, regardless of their health status. Unfortunately, current risk adjustment formulas are known to undercompensate payments to health insurers for specific groups of enrollees (by underpredicting their spending). Much of the existing algorithmic fairness literature for group fairness to date has focused on classifiers and binary outcomes. To improve risk adjustment formulas for undercompensated groups, we expand on concepts from the statistics, computer science, and health economics literature to develop new fair regression methods for continuous outcomes by building fairness considerations directly into the objective function. We additionally propose a novel measure of fairness while asserting that a suite of metrics is necessary in order to evaluate risk adjustment formulas more fully. Our data application using the IBM MarketScan Research Databases and simulation studies demonstrate that these new fair regression methods may lead to massive improvements in group fairness with only small reductions in overall fit.