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Incentives in Obesity and Health Insurance

  • Inas Rashad
  • Sara Markowitz

The obesity rate in the United States has risen significantly in the past few decades. While a number of economic causes for the rise in obesity have been explored, little attention has been on the role of health insurance per se. This paper examines obesity in the context of a model where health insurance status can influence body weight. We attempt to isolate the effects of ex ante moral hazard, where people with health insurance may change their behaviors towards weight control. We use data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 1993 to 2002 to determine the potential effect of having health insurance on measures of body weight. In our analyses, we control for a variety of confounding factors that may influence body weight and address the endogenous nature of health insurance. Our results show evidence that having insurance is associated with higher body mass (particularly for those above the poverty threshold) and an increased probability of being overweight. However, we find no evidence that having insurance affects the probability of being obese.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13113.

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Date of creation: May 2007
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Publication status: published as Kelly, Inas Rashad; Markowitz, Sara. Incentives in Obesity and Health Insurance. Inquiry, 46(4): 418-432, Winter 2009.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13113
Note: HE ED
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  14. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2002. "The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination," Working Papers 0203, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  15. Chou, Shin-Yi & Grossman, Michael & Saffer, Henry, 2004. "An economic analysis of adult obesity: results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 565-587, May.
  16. Komlos, John & Smith, Patricia K. & Bogin, Barry, 2003. "Obesity and the Rate of Time Preference: Is there a Connection?," Discussion Papers in Economics 60, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
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