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Does Medicare Benefit the Poor? New Answers to an Old Question

  • Jay Bhattacharya
  • Darius Lakdawalla

Previous research has found that Medicare benefits flow primarily to the most economically advantaged groups and that the financial returns to Medicare are consequently higher for the rich than for the poor. Taking a different approach, we find very different results. According to the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, the poorest groups receive the most benefits at any given age. In fact, the advantage of the poor in benefit receipt is so great that it easily overcomes their higher death rates. This leads to the result that the financial returns to Medicare are actually much higher for poorer groups in the population and that Medicare is a highly progressive public program. These new results appear to owe themselves to our measurement of socioeconomic status at the individual level, in contrast to the aggregated measures used by previous research.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w9280.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9280.

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Date of creation: Oct 2002
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Publication status: published as Bhattacharya, Jay and Darius Lakdawalla. "Does Medicare Benefit The Poor?," Journal of Public Economics, 2006, v90(1-2,Jan), 277-292.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9280
Note: HC
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  1. Mark McClellan & Jonathan Skinner, 1997. "The Incidence of Medicare," NBER Working Papers 6013, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Julie Lee & Mark McClellan & Jonathan Skinner, 1999. "The Distributional Effects of Medicare," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 13, pages 85-108 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David Card, 1994. "Earnings, Schooling, and Ability Revisited," Working Papers 710, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
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