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Quantitative analysis of health insurance reform: separating regulation from redistribution

Pashchenko, Svetlana and Porapakkarm, Ponpoje (2012): Quantitative analysis of health insurance reform: separating regulation from redistribution.

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Abstract

Two key components of the upcoming health reform in the U.S. are a new regulation of the individual health insurance market and an increase in income redistribution in the economy. Which component contributes more to the welfare outcome of the reform? We address this question by constructing a general equilibrium life cycle model that incorporates both medical expenses and labor income risks. We replicate the key features of the current health insurance system in the U.S. and calibrate the model using the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey dataset. We find that the reform decreases the number of uninsured more than twice and generates substantial welfare gains. However, these welfare gains mostly come from the redistributive measures embedded in the reform. If the reform only reorganizes the individual market, introduces individual mandates but does not include any income-based transfers, the welfare gains are much smaller. This result is mostly driven by the fact that most uninsured people have low income.

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