Health Insurance and Retirement Behavior: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Survey

by Jeannette Rogowski, Lynn A. Karoly

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This paper studies the role of health insurance in the retirement decisions of older workers. As policymakers consider mechanisms for how to increase access to affordable health insurance for the near elderly, considerations of the potential labor force implications of such policies will be important to consider -- potentially inducing retirement just at a time when labor force is shrinking. Using data from the 1992 and 1996 waves of the Health and Retirement Survey, this study demonstrates that access to post-retirement health insurance has a large effect on retirement. Among older male workers, those with retiree health benefit offers are 68% more likely to retire (and those with non-employment based insurance are 44% more likely to retire) than their counterparts who would lose employment-based health insurance upon retirement. In addition, the study demonstrated that in retirement models, when retiree health benefits are controlled for, the effects of pension coverage are reduced, suggesting that these effects may have been overestimated in the prior literature.

Originally published in: Journal of Health Economics, v. 19, no. 4, July 2000, pp. 529-539.

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