Juergen Jung is an Associate Professor of Economics at Towson University in Towson, MD. His research focuses on applied macroeconomics, health economics and computational economics. His articles have been published in leading journals such as the European Economic Review, the Review of Economic Dynamics, the Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, and Macroeconomic Dynamics. He will present the paper Health Risk, Insurance and Optimal Progressive Income Taxation.
Abstract: We study the optimal progressivity of personal income taxes in an environment where individuals are exposed to idiosyncratic shocks to health and labor productivity over the lifecycle. Our analysis is based on a large-scale overlapping generations general equilibrium model that is calibrated to the US economy. Our results indicate that the presence of health risk and health insurance has a strong effect on the amount of redistribution and social insurance provided by progressive income taxes. In an environment with a non-universal health insurance system, such as the US system, the optimal income tax system is highly progressive in order to provide a sufficient level of redistribution to unhealthy low income individuals. The total welfare gain from optimizing the progressivity level is 5:6 percent in compensating lifetime consumption. More inclusive health insurance systems, such as Medicare for all, lead to large decreases in the optimal level of tax progressivity. When health expenditure risk is eliminated, the optimal income tax code becomes more similar to the findings of previous studies that used models without health risk. Our findings highlight the quantitative importance of accounting for the interdependence of health insurance and income taxes when designing optimal income tax policies.