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Title: Who Pays for Health Insurance? Employee Contributions to Health Insurance Premiums
Authors: Levy, Helen
Keywords: employer-sponsored health insurance
Issue Date: 1-Mar-1998
Series/Report no.: Working Papers (Princeton University. Industrial Relations Section) ; 398
Abstract: Most private health insurance in the US is provided as a benefit of employment. One explanation for this phenomenon is that employer contributions to health insurance premiums are not taxed as income to the worker. It is somewhat puzzling, then, that a substantial fraction of workers contribute to their premiums, since these contributions are frequently made out of after-tax dollars. In this paper l examine the possibility that firms use employee contributions to distinguish between workers who do and do not want health insurance, in order to compensate them more efficiently when recruiting additional workers is costly. This model has clear predictions for the relationship between worker demand for health insurance and (l) the probability that health insurance is offered; (2) the probability that an employee contribution is required; (3) the probability that the firm establishes a Flexible Spending Account that allows the employee contribution to be made pre-tax; and (4) the employee’s share of the premium when a contribution is required. l test these predictions using data from the 1993 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Survey of Employers. Using worker age as a proxy for health insurance demand, I find results that are generally consistent with the predictions of the model. However, the fraction of workers who are female, which should also be related to demand for health insurance, does not exhibit a consistent relationship with health insurance offering and contribution requirements, so that overall the evidence on this hypothesis is mixed I conclude that while imperfect worker sorting on the basis of demand for health insurance does not explain all employee contributions, it may play a significant role in explaining why firms require contributions.
Appears in Collections:IRS Working Papers

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