A Spotlight on Yin’s Research on Health Insurance Literacy

The podcast Tradeoffs featured Public Policy Associate Professor Wesley Yin’s research into low enrollment rates in public health insurance plans, even when government subsidies are available. The study, which will be published in American Economics Review, noted that 60% of people who are uninsured and eligible for either Medicaid or Affordable Care Act premium tax subsidies choose to remain uninsured. In a randomized field experiment, researchers sent five types of letters to a group of uninsured, subsidy-eligible people in California. The letters contained escalating amounts of information, from merely announcing the start of open enrollment to specifying how much subsidy an individual could receive. Enrollment rates in this group increased about 16%, suggesting that this low-cost intervention increased their health insurance literacy and comfort level in navigating the system. In addition, the new enrollees were healthier, on average, than those already in the system, creating a more stable risk pool. Yin’s study is discussed in the second half of the podcast.

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