Why Do Firms Use Insurance to Fund Worker Health Benefits? The Role of Corporate Finance
Sara B. Holland
University of Georgia - C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry College of Business
Christina Marsh Dalton
Wake Forest University; University of Georgia - Terry College of Business - Department of Economics
March 5, 2013
When a firm offers health benefits to workers, it exposes the firm to the risk of making payments when workers get sick. A firm can either pay health expenses out of its general assets, keeping the risk inside the firm, or it can purchase insurance, shifting the risk outside the firm. We analyze the firm's decision to manage this risk. Using data on the insurance decisions of publicly-traded firms, we find that smaller firms, firms with more investment opportunities, and firms that face a convex tax schedule are more likely to hedge the risk of health benefit payments. These financial characteristics explain more of the hedging decision relative to commonly-cited state insurance mandates. We also show that hedging health risk mitigates investment-cash flow sensitivities.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 38
Keywords: self-insured, self-fund, hedging, human capital risk, labor risk, health insurance risk, investment cash flow
JEL Classification: G3, I13
Date posted: February 4, 2013 ; Last revised: April 1, 2013
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