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ABSTRACT: In this paper, I develop a quantitative macroeconomic model with endogenous health and endogenous longevity and use it to study the impact of Social Security on aggregate health spending. I find that Social Security increases the aggregate health spending of the economy via two channels. First, Social Security transfers resources from the young with low marginal propensity to spend on health care to the elderly (age 65+) with high marginal propensity to spend on health care. Second, Social Security raises people's expected future utility and thus increases the marginal benefit from investing in health to live longer. In the calibrated version of the model, I show that the positive impact of Social Security on aggregate health spending is quantitatively important. The expansion of US Social Security since 1950 can account for approximately 43% of the dramatic rise in US health spending as a share of GDP over the same period (i.e. from 4% of GDP in 1950 to 13% of GDP in 2000). I also find that this positive impact of Social Security has two interesting policy implications. First, the negative effect of Social Security on capital accumulation in this model is significantly smaller than what previous studies have found, because Social Security induces extra years of life via health spending and thus encourages private savings for retirement. Second, Social Security has a significant spill-over effect on public health insurance programs (e.g. Medicare). As Social Security increases health spending and longevity, it also increases the insurance payments from these programs, thus raising their financial burden.
The University of Western Ontario
- Department of Social Sciences
London, Ontario, Canada