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Tax Subsidies to Employer-Provided Health Insurance

In: Empirical Foundations of Household Taxation

  • Jonathan Gruber
  • James M. Poterba

This paper investigates the current tax subsidy to employer- provided health insurance, and presents new evidence on the economic effects of various tax reforms. It argues that previous analyses have overstated the tax subsidy to employer-provided insurance by neglecting the substantial and growing importance of after-tax employee payments for employer-provided insurance, as well as the tax subsidy for extreme medical expenses, which discourages insurance purchase. Even after considering these factors, however, the net tax subsidy to employer-provided insurance is substantial, with tax factors generating an average reduction of approximately thirty percent in the price of this insurance. Reducing the tax subsidy, either by capping the value of employer-provided health insurance that could be excluded from taxation, or eliminating the exclusion entirely, would have substantial effects on the level of employer- provided insurance and on tax revenues.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Martin Feldstein & James M. Poterba, 1996. "Empirical Foundations of Household Taxation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feld96-1.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 6239.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6239
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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    1. Feldstein, Martin & Samwick, Andrew A., 1992. "Social Security Rules and Marginal Tax Rates," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 45(1), pages 1-22, March.
    2. Kaplow, Louis, 1992. "Income Tax Deductions for Losses as Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 1013-17, September.
    3. Long, James E & Scott, Frank A, 1982. "The Income Tax and Nonwage Compensation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 64(2), pages 211-19, May.
    4. Stephen A. Woodbury & Daniel S. Hamermesh, . "Taxes, Fringe Benefits, and Faculty," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles saw1992, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    5. Marquis, M Susan & Phelps, Charles E, 1987. "Price Elasticity and Adverse Selection in the Demand for Supplementary Health Insurance," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 25(2), pages 299-313, April.
    6. Jonathan Gruber & Alan B. Krueger, 1990. "The Incidence of Mandated Employer-Provided Insurance: Lessons from Workers' Compensation Insurance," NBER Working Papers 3557, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Holmer, Martin, 1984. "Tax policy and the demand for health insurance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 203-221, December.
    8. Woodbury, Stephen A, 1983. "Substitution between Wage and Nonwage Benefits," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(1), pages 166-82, March.
    9. Feldstein, Martin S, 1973. "The Welfare Loss of Excess Health Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages 251-80, Part I, M.
    10. Burman, Leonard E. & Williams, Roberton, 1994. "Tax Caps on Employment-Based Health Insurance," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 47(3), pages 529-45, September.
    11. Louis Kaplow, 1991. "The Income Tax as Insurance: The Casualty Loss and Medical Expense Deductions and the Exclusion of the Medical Insurance Premiums," NBER Working Papers 3723, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1976. "Equilibrium in Competitive Insurance Markets: An Essay on the Economics of Imperfect Information," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 630-49, November.
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