NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Moral Hazard and Claims Deterrence in Private Disability Insurance

David Autor, Mark Duggan, Jonathan Gruber

NBER Working Paper No. 18172
Issued in June 2012
NBER Program(s):   AG   HE   LS   PE

We provide a detailed analysis of the incidence, duration and determinants of claims made on private Long Term Disability (LTD) policies using a database of approximately 10,000 policies and 1 million workers from a major LTD insurer. We document that LTD claims rates are much lower than claims rates on the public analogue to LTD, the Social Security Disability Insurance program, yet LTD policies have a much higher return-to-work rate among initial claimants. Nevertheless, our analysis indicates that the impact of moral hazard on LTD claims is substantial. Using within firm, over time variation in plan parameters, we find that a higher replacement rate and a shorter waiting time to benefits receipt—also known as the Elimination Period or EP—significantly increase the likelihood that workers claim LTD. About sixty percent of the effect of a longer EP is due to censoring of shorter claims, while the remainder is due to deterrence: workers facing a longer EP are less likely to claim benefits for impairments that would lead to a only a brief period of LTD receipt. This deterrence effect is equally large among high and low-income workers, suggesting that moral hazard rather than liquidity underlies the behavioral response. Consistent with this interpretation, the response of LTD claims to plan parameters is driven primarily by the behavior of the healthiest disabled, those who would return to work after receiving LTD.

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Acknowledgments and Disclosures

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18172

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