Who Pays for the Medical Costs of Obesity? New Evidence from the Employer Mandate

Originally published in Health Economics

Theory suggests that the medical costs of obesity should be passed on to obese workers, in the form of lower wages, whenever health coverage is a part of employee compensation. In contrast to existing work on this topic, this paper illustrates that the medical expenditures caused by obesity among working adults are relatively small and that wage offsets should therefore be difficult to detect. The paper supports this claim by exploiting the variation provided by the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate. Findings suggest that obese workers tend to bear the approximate cost of their medical expenditures via lower wages. However, the observed effects are often insignificantly different from zero.

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