In a comment on my earlier post, Adam O'Neill points me to another article by Jon Gruber, this time co-authored with Michael Lettau,** that is relevant to my argument that a more rationale tax treatment of health insurance would replace the current exclusion* of health insurance premiums from income by refundable, progressive tax credits.
Quoting from the article (p. 1275):
[O]ur results imply that complete removal of the tax subsidy to health insurance spending would lead to about 15 million fewer workers being offered health insurance, and a total reduction in insurance spending on the order of 45 percent.Note that this is a only half of the policy change that I discussed. Specifically, it does not incorporate the use of the new revenue to provide low-income workers with a refundable tax credit if and only if they spend it on health insurance. I conjecture that doing so would undo the reduction in the number of workers offered the insurance. Although I cannot speculate as to the magnitude of this offset, the Gruber-Lettau article also reports (p. 1286) that the probability that a firm offers health insurance is lowest when low-income workers are prevalent at the firm. This result obtains controlling for the tax subsidy to offering health insurance. By providing "use-it-or-lose-it" resources directly to the lowest earning groups, we increase the likelihood that they will join with higher earning workers to demand that the firm shift some compensation into group health insurance, even if the marginal tax incentive is gone.
*A comment on Brad DeLong's blog corrects my terminology--premiums are excluded from income. They are not a deduction, in the sense of an itemized deduction, from taxable income.
** My apologies to Michael--in the original post, I confused him with Martin Lettau.
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