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Health Insurance Availability and the Retirement Decision

  • Gruber, J.
  • Madrian, B.C.

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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Paper provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 94-04.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: 1994
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mit:worpap:94-04
Contact details of provider: Postal: MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (MIT), DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMICS, 50 MEMORIAL DRIVE CAMBRIDGE MASSACHUSETTS 02142 USA
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  1. 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.
  2. Jonathan Gruber & Brigitte C. Madrian, 1996. "Health Insurance and Early Retirement: Evidence from the Availability of Continuation Coverage," NBER Chapters, in: Advances in the Economics of Aging, pages 115-146 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1994. "Employer-provided health insurance and retirement behavior," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 48(1), pages 124-140, October.
  4. 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.
  5. Jonathan Gruber, 1992. "State Mandated Benefits and Employer Provided Health Insurance," NBER Working Papers 4239, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Robin L. Lumsdaine & James H. Stock & David A. Wise, 1995. "Why are Retirement Rates So High at Age 65?," NBER Working Papers 5190, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Stock, James H & Wise, David A, 1990. "Pensions, the Option Value of Work, and Retirement," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(5), pages 1151-80, September.
  14. 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.
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