Tax Incentives as a Solution to the Uninsured: Evidence from the Self-Employed

Source: Gulcin Gumus and Tracy L. Regan, Institute for the Study of Labor, IZA DP No. 2866, June 2007

Between the years 1996 and 2003, a series of amendments were made to the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (TRA86) that gradually increased the tax credit for health insurance purchases by the self-employed from 25 to 100 percent. We study how these changes in the tax code have influenced the likelihood that a self-employed person has health insurance coverage as the policy holder of the plan. The Current Population Survey (CPS) is used to construct a data set corresponding to 1995-2005. The empirical analysis is performed for prime-age men and women, and accounts for differences in family structure and potential eligibility. The difference-in-difference estimates suggest that the series of tax credits did not provide sufficient incentives for the self-employed to obtain health insurance coverage. Estimates of the price elasticity of demand confirm the limited response to changes in the after-tax health insurance premium. The effect was largest, however, among the single men and women in our sample, suggesting that a 10 percent decrease in the after-tax price increases the likelihood of coverage by 0.68 and 1.02 percentage points, respectively.

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