Moral Hazard in Nursing Home Use

David C. Grabowski, Jonathan Gruber

NBER Working Paper No. 11723
Issued in October 2005
NBER Program(s):Aging, Health Economics, Public Economics

Nursing home expenditures are a rapidly growing share of national health care spending with the government functioning as the dominant payer of services. Public insurance for nursing home care is tightly targeted on income and assets, which imposes a major tax on savings; moreover, low state reimbursement for Medicaid patients has been shown to lower treatment quality, and bed supply constraints may deny access to needy individuals. However, expanding eligibility, increasing Medicaid reimbursement, or allowing more nursing home bed slots has the potential to induce more nursing home use, increasing the social costs of long term care. A problem in evaluating this tradeoff is that we know remarkably little about the effects of government policy on nursing home utilization. We attempt to address this shortcoming using multiple waves of the National Long-Term Care Survey, matched to changing state Medicaid rules for nursing home care. We find consistent evidence of no effect of Medicaid policies on nursing home utilization, suggesting that demand for nursing home care is relatively inelastic. From a policy perspective, this finding indicates that changes in overall Medicaid generosity will not have large effects on utilization.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w11723

Published: Gruber, Jonathan and David Grabowski. “Moral Hazard in Nursing Home Use.” Journal of Health Economics 26 (2007): 560-577. .

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