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BackgroundSince 1993, Colombia has had a mandatory social health insurance scheme that aims to provide universal health coverage to all citizens. However, some contributory regime participants purchase voluntary private health insurance (VPHI) to access better quality health services (i. e., physicians and hospitals), shorter waiting times, and a more extensive providers' network. This article aims to estimate the price elasticity of demand for the VPHI market in Colombia.MethodsWe use data from the 2016-2017 consumer expenditure national survey and apply a Heckman selection model to address the selection problem into purchasing private insurance. Using the estimation results to further estimate the price semi-elasticity for VPHI, we then calculate the price elasticity for the households' health expenditure and acquisition of VHPI.ResultsOur main findings indicate that a 1% VPHI price increase reduces the proportion of households affiliated to a VPHI in the country by about 2.32% to 4.66%, with robust results across sample restrictions. There are relevant differences across age groups, with younger households' heads being less responsive to VPHI price changes.ConclusionsWe conclude that the VPHI demand in Colombia is noticeably elastic, and therefore tax policy changes can have a significant impact on public health insurance expenditures. The government should estimate the optimal VPHI purchase in order to reduce any welfare loss that the current arrangement might be generating.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC health services research

Publication Date





School of Economics, Universidad del Rosario, Calle 12 C No. 4 - 69, 111711, Bogotá, Colombia.


Humans, Elasticity, Health Expenditures, Insurance, Health, Colombia, Universal Health Insurance