Discounting of medical savings accounts

Maoyong Fan, Zhen Lei, Gordon Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Medical savings accounts (MSAs), personalmedical accounts that are restricted for healthcare consumption only, have been widely adopted to cushion individuals against the financial risk due to illness and to address the potentialmoral hazard problem in the health insurance system. This paper studies the effects ofMSAs on health-care expenditures and suggests that there may be some inherent tension between the two purposes of MSAs: account holders are likely to discountMSA funds because of their restricted use, which renders MSAs to be less effective in controlling health-care costs.We exploit a quasi-natural experiment in China that exogenously reduced MSA funds for enrollees in certain age cohorts. We find that this reduction led to a large and statistically significant decrease in health-care expenditures that is unlikely due to an income effect. The effect was driven by enrollees who were likely to exhaust MSA funds and enter the deductible phase in which they paid out-of-pocket.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-183
Number of pages23
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Economics
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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