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The Distortionary Effects of the Health Insurance Tax Exclusion

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  • David Powell

    (RAND)

Abstract

The tax exclusion of health insurance premiums represents the largest source of tax expenditures in the United States while reducing the after-tax price of insurance for the majority of households. This paper provides theoretical and empirical evidence about the tax subsidy's effects on a host of outcomes, including coverage generosity, the cost-sharing schedule, the distribution of medical care expenditures, mean medical care expenditures, and average insurer payments. I identify the effects of the tax subsidy solely exploiting legislative tax schedule changes and the differential effects they have on households. I find large effects on all dimensions, including coverage generosity at low levels of annual expenditures as well as overall medical care expenditures and insurer payments. The results imply the tax subsidy annually leads to deadweight loss of over $13 billion.

Suggested Citation

  • David Powell, 2019. "The Distortionary Effects of the Health Insurance Tax Exclusion," American Journal of Health Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(4), pages 428-464, Fall.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:amjhec:v:5:y:2019:i:4:p:428-464
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Powell, David & Goldman, Dana, 2021. "Disentangling moral hazard and adverse selection in private health insurance," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 222(1), pages 141-160.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    tax elasticity; generous health-care coverage; cost-sharing; tax subsidy; cadillac tax; deadweight loss;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • I13 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Insurance, Public and Private

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