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Regressive Subsidy to EHI and Entrepreneurial Talent Allocation


  • Anne Villamil

    (University of Iowa)

  • Zhigang Feng

    (University of Nebraska)


Abstract Americans who obtain health insurance coverage through employment do not currently pay income or payroll taxes on this benefit. Tax-deductible employer-based health insurance (EHI) is regressive, and we show that this tax policy can help correct misallocation between self-employment and firm employment. Agents face idiosyncratic health risk and have heterogeneous ability as workers or entrepreneurs, and choose their occupation. Linking employment and health insurance creates a wedge between the marginal cost and benefit of EHI and employment at a firm. In equilibrium, some highly skilled individuals with adverse health shocks leave entrepreneurship while individuals with intermediate skills but favorable health shocks opt to manage firms. In the presence of imperfect information on private agent's health risk and managerial ability, and in the absence of perfectly discriminating taxes, a regressive tax subsidy for entrepreneurs to purchase health insurance helps correct distortions associated with non-contractible heterogeneity in managerial talent and health shocks. The subsidy makes entrepreneurship a more (less) attractive option for the highly (medium) skilled unhealthy (healthy) agents as such a policy increases (reduces) net-tax entrepreneurial income. Consequently, this tax policy provides an additional incentive (disincentive) for the first (second) type to be an entrepreneur, hence improving talent allocation. For a dynamic equilibrium model calibrated to the US economy, we find that the welfare gain from improved talent allocation outweighs the loss due to reduced risk sharing associated with the regressive subsidy.

Suggested Citation

  • Anne Villamil & Zhigang Feng, 2017. "Regressive Subsidy to EHI and Entrepreneurial Talent Allocation," 2017 Meeting Papers 1059, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed017:1059

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fairlie, Robert W. & Kapur, Kanika & Gates, Susan, 2011. "Is employer-based health insurance a barrier to entrepreneurship?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 146-162, January.
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    4. 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.
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    6. Iourii Manovskii & Bjoern Bruegemann, 2009. "Fragility: A Quantitative Analysis of the US Health Insurance System," 2009 Meeting Papers 1246, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    7. R. Anton Braun & Karen A. Kopecky & Tatyana Koreshkova, 2013. "Old, sick, alone, and poor: a welfare analysis of old-age social insurance programs," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2013-02, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
    8. Hanming Fang & Alessandro Gavazza, 2011. "Dynamic Inefficiencies in an Employment-Based Health Insurance System: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3047-3077, December.
    9. R. Anton Braun & Karen A. Kopecky & Tatyana Koreshkova, 2017. "Old, Sick, Alone, and Poor: A Welfare Analysis of Old-Age Social Insurance Programmes," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(2), pages 580-612.
    10. David Chivers & Zhigang Feng & Anne Villamil, 2017. "Employment-based Health Insurance and Misallocation: Implications for the Macroeconomy," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 23, pages 125-149, January.
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