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© 2020 Elsevier B.V. This paper examines the unintended strategic effects of non-linear incentives in public policies. A system of health care subsidies structured into discrete intervals may lead to strategic behaviour. We provide new evidence on this issue, focusing on a case where strategic actions are taken by healthcare providers (HCPs). We show that HCPs adjust the score of claimants in long-term care needs assessments, allowing claimants to access higher levels of care benefits. This adjustment does not bring any pecuniary gain for HCPs. In a quasi-natural experimental setting –the implementation of Spanish long-term care (LTC)– we show that the distribution of the claimants' needs includes kinks around the thresholds set for the LTC system. These kinks reveal that healthcare providers adopt prosocial behaviour, helping claimants jump to a higher level of benefits without discriminating by health status, residence, or gender. By developing a new non-parametric estimator, we prove that these adjustments increase the public LTC spending, which is equivalent to moving thresholds to the left. The additional cost per adjusted claimant per annum is approximately 1000 euro on average. Finally, we also explore empirically whether the number of thresholds could affect such behaviour, by exploiting a reform that eliminated some thresholds. We find that the lower number of thresholds is associated with an increase of adjustment around the thresholds that remain.

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Journal article


Journal of Public Economics

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