Incentives in obesity and health insurance

Inquiry. 2009-2010 Winter;46(4):418-32. doi: 10.5034/inquiryjrnl_46.4.418.


Health insurance is widely regarded as essential for financing the production of good health, but is insurance always beneficial for our health? Ex ante moral hazard may induce individuals with insurance to engage in behaviors that they otherwise would not undertake in the absence of insurance. Using data from the 1993-2002 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, we attempt to isolate the effects of ex ante moral hazard to determine the potential consequence of having health insurance on measures of body weight. In our analyses, we control for a variety of confounding factors that may influence body weight and address the endogenous nature of health insurance. Our results suggest that having insurance is associated with higher body mass but not the probability of being obese.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage / statistics & numerical data*
  • Insurance, Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors