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Dynamic Inefficiencies in Employment-Based Health Insurance System Theory and Evidence

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  • Hanming Fang
  • Alessandro Gavazza

Abstract

We investigate how the employment-based health insurance system in the U.S. affects individuals' life-cycle health-care decisions. We take the viewpoint that health is a form of human capital that affects workers' productivities on the job, and derive implications of employees' turnover on the incentives to undertake health investment. Our model suggests that employee turnovers lead to dynamic inefficiencies in health investment, and particularly, it suggests that employment-based health insurance system in the U.S. might lead to an inefficient low level of individual health during individuals' working ages. Moreover, we show that under-investment in health is positively related to the turnover rate of the workers' industry and increases medical expenditure in retirement. We provide empirical evidence for the predictions of the model using two data sets, the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). In MEPS, we find that employers in industries with high turnover rates are much less likely to offer health insurance to their workers. When employers offer health insurance, the contracts have higher deductibles and employers' contribution to the insurance premium is lower in high turnover industries. Moreover, workers in high turnover industries have lower medical expenditure and undertake less preventive care. In HRS, instead we find that individuals who were employed in high turnover industries have higher medical expenditure when retired. The magnitude of our estimates suggests significant degree of intertemporal inefficiencies in health investment in the U.S. as a result of the employment-based health insurance system. We also evaluate and cast doubt on alternative explanations.

Suggested Citation

  • Hanming Fang & Alessandro Gavazza, 2007. "Dynamic Inefficiencies in Employment-Based Health Insurance System Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 13371, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13371
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    Cited by:

    1. Randall D. Cebul & James B. Rebitzer & Lowell J. Taylor & Mark E. Votruba, 2011. "Unhealthy Insurance Markets: Search Frictions and the Cost and Quality of Health Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 1842-1871, August.
    2. Jason M. Fletcher & David E. Frisvold, 2009. "Higher Education and Health Investments: Does More Schooling Affect Preventive Health Care Use?," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(2), pages 144-176.
    3. repec:asb:wpaper:201216 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Amanda Starc & Robert J. Town, 2015. "Externalities and Benefit Design in Health Insurance," NBER Working Papers 21783, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Amitabh Chandra & Jonathan Gruber & Robin McKnight, 2010. "Patient Cost-Sharing and Hospitalization Offsets in the Elderly," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 193-213, March.
    6. Kowalski, Amanda E., 2015. "Estimating the tradeoff between risk protection and moral hazard with a nonlinear budget set model of health insurance," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 122-135.
    7. Thomas C. Buchmueller & Alan C. Monheit, 2009. "Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance and the Promise of Health Insurance Reform," NBER Working Papers 14839, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Frank Lichtenberg, 2011. "The quality of medical care, behavioral risk factors, and longevity growth," International Journal of Health Economics and Management, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 1-34, March.
    9. Juergen Jung & Chung Tran, 2008. "The Macroeconomics of Health Savings Accounts," Caepr Working Papers 2007-023, Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington.
    10. Lakdawalla, Darius & Sood, Neeraj, 2013. "Health insurance as a two-part pricing contract," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 1-12.
    11. Randall D. Cebul & James B. Rebitzer & Lowell J. Taylor & Mark E. Votruba, 2008. "Organizational Fragmentation and Care Quality in the U.S. Healthcare System," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 93-113, Fall.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • D92 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Intertemporal Firm Choice, Investment, Capacity, and Financing
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior

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