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Subsidies and education about the value of health insurance may help encourage the uninsured to enroll in health plans

Research Activities, February 2009, No. 362

Education about the value of health insurance and subsidies to assist with premium payments may encourage enrollment in health insurance plans, concludes a new study. Alan C. Monheit, Ph.D., of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and Jessica Primoff Vistnes, Ph.D., of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, used the 2001 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to examine decisions by single workers to seek out and enroll in employer-sponsored insurance plans.

Single workers with weak or uncertain preferences for health insurance were less likely to have jobs that offered coverage or to enroll in coverage when it was offered compared with those with strong tastes for health insurance. Those who weakly valued insurance included individuals who said that they were healthy enough not to need it, that it wasn't worth the money it cost, and/or that they could overcome illness without help from a medically trained person. These individuals were also more likely to take risks than the average person. For example, individuals who considered themselves healthy enough that they didn't need coverage were 7 percent less likely to have a job with health insurance and 7 percent less likely to enroll in such coverage, compared with those who strongly valued health insurance. Some of these individuals may value wage income with certainty over the uncertain yield of health insurance benefits, note the researchers. Changing attitudes toward the value of health insurance and providing subsidies might encourage the uninsured to take up insurance, suggest the researchers.

See "Health insurance enrollment decisions: Preferences for coverage, worker sorting, and insurance take-up," by Drs. Monheit and Vistnes, in the Summer 2008 Inquiry 45, pp. 153-167. Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 09-R008) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Current as of February 2009
Internet Citation: Subsidies and education about the value of health insurance may help encourage the uninsured to enroll in health plans: Research Activities, February 2009, No. 362. February 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/research-activities/feb09/0209RA28.html