Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Health insurance as a productive factor

Dizioli, Allan and Pinheiro, Roberto B. (2012): Health insurance as a productive factor.

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Abstract

In this paper, we present a less-explored channel through which health insurance impacts productivity: by offering health insurance, employers reduce the expected time workers spend out of work in sick days. Using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), we show that a worker with health coverage misses on average 52% fewer workdays than uninsured workers, after controlling for endogeneity. We develop a model that embodies this impact of health coverage in productivity. In our model, health insurance reduces the probability that a healthy worker gets sick, missing workdays, and it increases the probability that a sick worker recovers and returns to work. In our model, firms that offer health insurance are larger and pay higher wages in equilibrium, a pattern observed in the data. We calibrated the model using US data for 2004 and show the impact of increases in health costs, as well as of changes in tax benefits of health insurance expenses, on labor force health coverage and productivity. Finally, we show that a government mandate that forces firms to offer health insurance increases average wages and aggregate productivity while reducing aggregate profits, ultimately having a positive impact on welfare.

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