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How Elastic is the Firm's Demand for Health Insurance?

Author

Listed:
  • Jonathan Gruber
  • Michael Lettau

Abstract

We investigate the impact of tax subsidies on the firms decision to offer insurance, and on conditional firm spending on insurance. We do so using the micro-data underlying the Employee Compensation Index, which has a major advantage for this exercise: the matching of very high quality compensation data with information on a sample of workers in the firm. We find that, overall, there is a modest elasticity of insurance offering with respect to after-tax prices (elasticity of -0.31 to -0.41), but a larger elasticity of insurance spending (elasticity of 0.66 to 0.99). We also find that the elasticity of offering is driven solely by small firms, for whom the elasticity is much larger, but that spending is more elastic in large firms. We provide some evidence on how the aggregation of worker preferences determines benefits provision decisions. In particular, we find evidence to support a median voter model of benefits determination, along with some additional influence for the most highly compensated workers in the firm. Our simulation results suggest that major tax reform could lead to an enormous reduction in employer-provided health insurance spending.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan Gruber & Michael Lettau, 2000. "How Elastic is the Firm's Demand for Health Insurance?," NBER Working Papers 8021, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8021
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Holmer, Martin, 1984. "Tax policy and the demand for health insurance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 203-221, December.
    2. Jonathan Gruber & James M. Poterba, 1996. "Tax Subsidies to Employer-Provided Health Insurance," NBER Chapters,in: Empirical Foundations of Household Taxation, pages 135-168 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Woodbury, Stephen A & Hamermesh, Daniel S, 1992. "Taxes, Fringe Benefits and Faculty," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(2), pages 287-296, May.
    4. Manning, Willard G, et al, 1987. "Health Insurance and the Demand for Medical Care: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 251-277, June.
    5. Marquis, M. Susan & Long, Stephen H., 1995. "Worker demand for health insurance in the non-group market," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 47-63, May.
    6. Jonathan Gruber, 1998. "Health Insurance and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 6762, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Pauly, Mark V, 1986. "Taxation, Health Insurance, and Market Failure in the Medical Economy," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 24(2), pages 629-675, June.
    8. Farber, Henry S. & Levy, Helen, 2000. "Recent trends in employer-sponsored health insurance coverage: are bad jobs getting worse?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 93-119, January.
    9. Gruber, Jonathan & McKnight, Robin, 2003. "Why did employee health insurance contributions rise?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(6), pages 1085-1104, November.
    10. William M. Gentry & Eric Peress, 1994. "Taxes and Fringe Benefits Offered by Employers," NBER Working Papers 4764, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Tax Subsidies for Health Insurance: Evaluating the Costs and Benefits," NBER Working Papers 7553, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. 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.
    13. 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 211-219, May.
    14. Roger Feldman & Bryan Dowd & Scott Leitz & Lynn A. Blewett, 1997. "The Effect of Premiums on the Small Firm's Decision to Offer Health Insurance," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(4), pages 635-658.
    15. Gruber, Jonathan, 2000. "Health insurance and the labor market," Handbook of Health Economics,in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 12, pages 645-706 Elsevier.
    16. Royalty, Anne Beeson, 2000. "Tax preferences for fringe benefits and workers' eligibility for employer health insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 209-227, February.
    17. Martin Feldstein & James M. Poterba, 1996. "Empirical Foundations of Household Taxation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feld96-1, June.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Jonathan Gruber, 2005. "Tax Policy for Health Insurance," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 19, pages 39-64 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Lehrer, Steven F. & Pereira, Nuno Sousa, 2007. "Worker sorting, compensating differentials and health insurance: Evidence from displaced workers," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 1034-1056, September.
    3. Judith Shinogle & David Salkever, 2005. "Firms' Demand for Employment-Based Mental Health Benefits," NBER Working Papers 11436, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Gruber, Jonathan & McKnight, Robin, 2003. "Why did employee health insurance contributions rise?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(6), pages 1085-1104, November.
    5. Laura Bucila, 2008. "Employment-Based Health Insurance and the Minimum Wage," Working Papers 0812, College of the Holy Cross, Department of Economics.
    6. Stan McMillen & Kathryn Parr & Xiumei Song & Brian Baird, 2004. "The Kerry-Bush Health Care Proposals: A Characterization and Comparison of their Impacts on Connecticut (Technical Appendix)," CCEA Studies 2004-06, University of Connecticut, Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis.
    7. Jonathan Gruber, 2002. "Taxes and Health Insurance," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 16, pages 37-66 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Steven F. Lehrer & Nuno Sousa Pereira, 2008. "Worker Sorting, Health Insurance and Wages: Further Evidence from Displaced Workers in the United States," CEF.UP Working Papers 0804, Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Economia do Porto.
    9. Jeske, Karsten & Kitao, Sagiri, 2009. "U.S. tax policy and health insurance demand: Can a regressive policy improve welfare?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 210-221, March.
    10. Alan C. Monheit & Jessica Primoff Vistnes, 2006. "Health Insurance Enrollment Decisions: Preferences for Coverage, Worker Sorting, and Insurance Take Up," NBER Working Papers 12429, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Marisol Rodriguez & Alexandrina Stoyanova, 2008. "Changes in the demand for private medical insurance following a shift in tax incentives," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(2), pages 185-202.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H51 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Health
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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