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Why Did Employee Health Insurance Contributions Rise?

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  • Jonathan Gruber
  • Robin McKnight

Abstract

We explore the causes of the dramatic rise in employee contributions to health insurance over the past two decades. In 1982, 44% of those who were covered by their employer-provided health insurance had their costs fully financed by their employer, but by 1998 this had fallen to 28%. We discuss the theory of why employers might shift premiums to their employees, and empirically model the role of six factors suggested by the theory. We find that there was a large impact of falling tax rates, rising eligibility for insurance through the Medicaid system and through spouses, and deteriorating economic conditions (in the late 1980s and early 1990s). We also find much more modest impacts of increased managed care penetration and rising health care costs. Overall, this set of factors can explain about one-quarter of the rise in employee premiums over the 1982-1996 period.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8878.

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Date of creation: Apr 2002
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Publication status: published as Gruber, Jonathan and Robin McKnight. “Why Did Employee Health Insurance Contributions Rise?" Journal of Health Economics 22, 6 (November 2003): 1085-1104.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8878

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  1. Gruber, Jonathan & Washington, Ebonya, 2005. "Subsidies to employee health insurance premiums and the health insurance market," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 253-276, March.
  2. Pauly, Mark V, 1986. "Taxation, Health Insurance, and Market Failure in the Medical Economy," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 24(2), pages 629-75, June.
  3. John W. Budd & Matthew J.Slaughter, 2000. "Are Profits Shared Across Borders? Evidence on International Rent Sharing," NBER Working Papers 8014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Helen Levy, 1998. "Who Pays for Health Insurance? Employee Contributions to Health Insurance Premiums," Working Papers 777, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  5. Daniel Feenberg & Elisabeth Coutts, 1993. "An introduction to the TAXSIM model," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 189-194.
  6. Currie, Janet & Gruber, Jonathan, 1996. "Health Insurance Eligibility, Utilization of Medical Care, and Child Health," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 431-66, May.
  7. Gruber, J. & Currie, J., 1994. "Saving Babies: The Efficacy and Cost of Recent Expansions of Medicaid Eligibility for Pregnant Women," Working papers 94-11, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  8. Henry S. Farber & Helen Levy, 1998. "Recent Trends in Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Coverage: Are Bad Jobs Getting Worse?," Working Papers 781, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  9. Cutler, David M & Gruber, Jonathan, 1996. "Does Public Insurance Crowd Out Private Insurance?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 391-430, May.
  10. repec:fth:prinin:398 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Jonathan Gruber & Michael Lettau, 2000. "How Elastic is the Firm's Demand for Health Insurance?," NBER Working Papers 8021, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Dranove, David & Spier, Kathryn E. & Baker, Laurence, 2000. "'Competition' among employers offering health insurance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 121-140, January.
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