BMC Public Health (Aug 2020)

Income and wealth as determinants of voluntary private health insurance: empirical evidence in Spain, 2008–2014

  • Jaime Pinilla,
  • Beatriz G. López-Valcárcel

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 20, no. 1
pp. 1 – 10


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Abstract Background Few studies have quantitatively estimated the income elasticity of demand of voluntary private health insurance (VPHI) in countries with a universal National Health Service. Most studies to date have uses cross-sectional data. Methods In this paper we used a longitudinal database from the Bank of Spain to analyse the financial behaviour of approximately six thousand families per wave. We used three waves (2008, 2011 and 2014). We estimated income and wealth semi-elasticities of VPHI in Spain considering personal and family characteristics (age, sex, level of health, education, composition of the household), i.e. changes in the probability of buying VPHI as result of 1% change in income or wealth. We estimated cross-sectional models for each wave and longitudinal models for families remaining for at least two waves, taking account of possible selection bias due to attrition. Results Cross-sectional models suggest that the income effect on the probability of buying a VPHI increased from 2008 to 2014. The positive impact was observed for, wealth. In 2008 a 1% increase in income is associated with an increase in the probability of having VPHI of 0.064 [95%-CI: 0.023; 0.104] - on the probability scale (0.1) – whereas in 2014, this effect is of 0.116 [95%-CI, 0.094; 0.139]. In 2011 and 2014 the wealth effect is not significant at 5%. The estimation of the longitudinal model leads to different results where both, income and wealth are associated with non- significant results. Conclusion Our three main conclusions are: 1) Cross-sectional estimates of semi-elasticities of VPHI might be biased upwards; 2) Wealth is alongside income are economic determinants, of the decision to buy VPHI in high-income countries; 3) The effects of income and wealth on the probability of buying VHPI are neither linear nor log-linear. There are no significant differences among 60% of the most disadvantaged families, while the families of the two upper wealth quintiles show clearly differentiated behaviour with a higher probability of insurance.