Accounting for the Slowdown in Employer Health Care Costs

Alan B. Krueger, Helen Levy

NBER Working Paper No. 5891
Issued in January 1997
NBER Program(s):Health Care, Labor Studies

The most widely used measure of employer health care costs, the health insurance component of the Employment Cost Index, indicates that cost growth has decelerated since 1989. In recent years employer expenditures per hour worked have even declined in nominal dollars. This paper analyzes the components of changes in employers' health care costs over the 1992-94 and 1987-93 periods. We find that employer costs have decreased primarily as a result of a steady decrease in the fraction of workers with coverage and a large decrease in the rate of growth of insurance premiums. We conclude that the shift to managed care does not appear to be directly responsible for significant cost savings because managed care premiums are almost as high as those for fee-for-service plans, on average. Finally, we note that there is a significant need for improved data collection in this area.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w5891

Published: Proceedings of the National Tax Association (1997): 61-75.

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