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Finance and Economics Discussion Series
The Finance and Economics Discussion Series logo links to FEDS home page Health Care Costs, Wages, and Aging
Louise Sheiner

Abstract: While economists generally agree that workers pay for their health insurance costs through reduced wages, there has been little thought devoted to the level at which these costs are passed on: Is each employee's wage reduced by the amount of his or her own health costs, by the average health costs of employees in the firm, or by some amount in between? This paper analyzes one dimension of the question of how firms pass health costs to workers. Using cross-city variation in health costs, I test whether older workers pay for their higher health costs in the form of lower wages. I find that in cities where health insurance costs are high, the age/wage profile is flatter, indicating that older workers do pay for their higher health costs in the form of reduced wages. This finding is robust to the inclusion of several other city-specific variables that might also affect age/wage profiles and that could be correlated with health insurance costs. I also find that workers who choose family health insurance coverage pay for the added employer costs through reduced wages.

Keywords: Health insurance, emloyee benefits, incidence

Full paper (2695 KB PDF)

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Last update: May 14, 1999