The Impact of the Macroeconomy on Health Insurance Coverage: Evidence from the Great Recession
This paper investigates the impact of the macroeconomy on the health insurance coverage of Americans. We examine panel data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) for 2004-2010, a period that includes the Great Recession of 2007-09. We find that a one percentage point increase in the state unemployment rate is associated with a 1.67 percentage point (2.12%) reduction in the probability that men have health insurance; this effect is strongest among college-educated, white, and older (50-64 year old) men. For women and children, the unemployment rate was not significantly correlated with the probability of health insurance coverage through any source. When one examines the source of coverage, it becomes apparent that a one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate is associated with a 1.37 percentage point (4.69%) higher probability that a child is covered by public health insurance. Based on the point estimates in this paper, we estimate that 9.3 million adult Americans, the vast majority of whom were men, lost health insurance due to a higher unemployment rate alone during the 2007-09 recession. This is roughly nine times more than lost health insurance during the previous (2001) recession. We conclude with a discussion of how components of recent health care reform may influence these relationships in the future.
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