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Health Insurance Availability and the Retirement Decision

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  • Jonathan Gruber
  • Brigitte C. Madrian

Abstract

Because individuals aged 55-64 face large and uncertain medical expenditures without the guarantee of public insurance coverage provided by Medicare, the availability of post-retirement health insurance could be an important determinant in the retirement decisions of this group. We investigate the effect of health insurance on retirement by focusing on state and federal "continuation of coverage" mandates which grant the retiree the right to continue purchasing health insurance through a previous employer for a specified number of months after leaving the firm. We exploit variation in the timing and generosity of these laws to identify the effect of the availability of continuation coverage on retirement decisions, using data on 55-64 year-old males from the Current Population Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation. We find a sizeable and significant effect of continuation coverage on retirement; one year of mandated continuation benefits raises retirement rates by 20%. The effect appears to be uniform at all ages rather that larger near the age of Medicare eligibility. There is also a large increase in the insurance coverage of individuals who would have retired in the absence of continuation benefits. Our findings have important implications for policies which change the insurance coverage of early retirees, such as national health insurance.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4469.

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Date of creation: Sep 1993
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Publication status: published as American Economic Review, September 1995, vol. 84, no. 4, pp. 938-948.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4469

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  1. James H. Stock & David A. Wise, 1988. "Pensions, The Option Value of Work, and Retirement," NBER Working Papers 2686, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gloria J. Bazzoli, 1985. "The Early Retirement Decision: New Empirical Evidence on the Influence of Health," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 20(2), pages 214-234.
  3. Gruber, J. & Madrian, B.C., 1994. "Limited Insurance Portability and Job Mobility: The Effects of Public Policy on Job-Lock," Working papers 94-03, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  4. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1993. "Employer Provided Health Insurance and Retirement Behavior," NBER Working Papers 4307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Parsons, Donald O, 1980. "The Decline in Male Labor Force Participation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(1), pages 117-34, February.
  6. James H. Stock & David A. Wise, 1990. "The Pension Inducement to Retire: An Option Value Analysis," NBER Chapters, in: Issues in the Economics of Aging, pages 205-230 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Jonathan Gruber & Brigitte Madrian, 1993. "Health Insurance and Early Retirement: Evidence from the Availability of Continuation Coverage," NBER Working Papers 4594, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Robin L. Lumsdaine & James H. Stock & David A. Wise, 1996. "Why Are Retirement Rates So High at Age 65?," NBER Chapters, in: Advances in the Economics of Aging, pages 61-82 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Glenn T. Sueyoshi, 1989. "Social Security and the Determinants of Full and Partial Retirement: A Competing Risks Analysis," NBER Working Papers 3113, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Gruber, J., 1992. "State Mandated Benefits and Employer Provided Health Insurance," Working papers 92-18, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  11. Burtless, Gary, 1986. "Social Security, Unanticipated Benefit Increases, and the Timing of Retirement," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(5), pages 781-805, October.
  12. Jerry A. Hausman & David A. Wise, 1985. "Social Security, Health Status, and Retirement," NBER Chapters, in: Pensions, Labor, and Individual Choice, pages 159-192 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Bound, John, 1989. "The Health and Earnings of Rejected Disability Insurance Applicants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 482-503, June.
  14. Hurd, Michael D, 1990. "Research on the Elderly: Economic Status, Retirement, and Consumption and Saving," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 28(2), pages 565-637, June.
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