The impact of health insurance on health

Annu Rev Public Health. 2008:29:399-409. doi: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.28.021406.144042.


How does health insurance affect health? After reviewing the evidence on this question, we reach three conclusions. First, many of the studies claiming to show a causal effect of health insurance on health do not do so convincingly because the observed correlation between insurance and good health may be driven by other, unobservable factors. Second, convincing evidence demonstrates that health insurance can improve health measures of some population subgroups, some of which, although not all, are the same subgroups that would be the likely targets of coverage expansion policies. Third, for policy purposes we need to know whether the results of these studies generalize. Solid answers to the multitude of important questions about how specific health insurance policy options may affect health seem likely to be forthcoming only with investment of substantial resources in social experiments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Status Indicators
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health*
  • Medically Uninsured
  • Public Health / economics*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / economics