View all items in this collection

The Synthesis Project

An RWJF Collection

View all items in this collection

Tax Subsidies for Private Health Insurance

Who Currently Benefits and What Are the Implications for New Policies?

The exclusion from income and payroll taxes for employer-paid health insurance premiums amounted to more than $240 billion in 2010. As policy-makers search for ways to pay for health care reform and contain health care costs, this exclusion is coming under scrutiny, despite the fact that employee-sponsored insurance (ESI) is an integral part of the health insurance system. This update of a 2003 synthesis looks at the tax subsidy for private health insurance. Key findings include: The current tax subsidy benefits higher-income workers the most. The tax exclusion is worth more to those in higher tax brackets, higher-income workers are three times more likely to work for firms who offer ESI than lower-income workers, and they are more likely to purchase ESI when offered because they can afford it. Families earning $10,000 to $20,000 annually spend more than 25 percent of their income on health insurance but the value of their tax subsidy is only $1,500. By contrast, earners over $200,000 spend less than 5 percent on health insurance but their benefit is worth $4,500. Workers who cannot afford ESI or are ineligible, including the self-employed and many part-time workers, do not receive this subsidy when they purchase private, non-group coverage.