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Tax incentives and the demand for private health insurance

  • Stavrunova, Olena
  • Yerokhin, Oleg

We analyze the effect of an individual insurance mandate (Medicare Levy Surcharge) on the demand for private health insurance (PHI) in Australia. With administrative income tax return data, we show that the mandate has several distinct effects on taxpayers’ behavior. First, despite the large tax penalty for not having PHI coverage relative to the cost of the cheapest eligible insurance policy, compliance with mandate is relatively low: the proportion of the population with PHI coverage increases by 6.5 percentage points (15.6%) at the income threshold where the tax penalty starts to apply. This effect is most pronounced for young taxpayers, while the middle aged seem to be least responsive to this specific tax incentive. Second, the discontinuous increase in the average tax rate at the income threshold created by the policy generates a strong incentive for tax avoidance which manifests itself through bunching in the taxable income distribution below the threshold. Finally, after imposing some plausible assumptions, we extrapolate the effect of the policy to other income levels and show that this policy has not had a significant impact on the overall demand for private health insurance in Australia.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Health Economics.

Volume (Year): 34 (2014)
Issue (Month): C ()
Pages: 121-130

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:34:y:2014:i:c:p:121-130
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  1. Randall Ellis & Elizabeth Savage, 2008. "Run for cover now or later? The impact of premiums, threats and deadlines on private health insurance in Australia," International Journal of Health Care Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 8(4), pages 257-277, December.
  2. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Tore Olsen & Luigi Pistaferri, 2011. "Adjustment Costs, Firm Responses, and Micro vs. Macro Labor Supply Elasticities: Evidence from Danish Tax Records," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 749-804.
  3. Meliyanni Johar & Glenn Jones & Michael Keane & Elizabeth Savage & Olena Stavrunova, 2011. "Waiting times for elective surgery and the decision to buy private health insurance," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(S1), pages 68-86, 09.
  4. Gruber, J. & Poterba, J., 1994. "Tax Incentives and the Decision to Purchase Health Insurance: Evidence from the Self-Employed," Working papers 94-10, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  5. Emmanuel Saez, 2010. "Do Taxpayers Bunch at Kink Points?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 180-212, August.
  6. Henrik J. Kleven & Mazhar Waseem, 2013. "Using Notches to Uncover Optimization Frictions and Structural Elasticities: Theory and Evidence from Pakistan," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(2), pages 669-723.
  7. Jonathan Gruber, 2011. "The Impacts of the Affordable Care Act: How Reasonable Are the Projections?," NBER Working Papers 17168, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Gruber, Jonathan, 2011. "The Impacts Of The Affordable Care Act: How Reasonable Are The Projections?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 64(3), pages 893-908, September.
  9. Bruce Chapman & Andrew Leigh, 2006. "Do Very High Tax Rates Induce Bunching? Implications for the Design of Income-Contingent Loan Schemes," CEPR Discussion Papers 521, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  10. Finkelstein, Amy, 2002. "The effect of tax subsidies to employer-provided supplementary health insurance: evidence from Canada," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(3), pages 305-339, June.
  11. McCrary, Justin, 2008. "Manipulation of the running variable in the regression discontinuity design: A density test," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 698-714, February.
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