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Dr. Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm, Professor of Economics, from Indiana University- Purdue Univeristy Indianapolis visits to present his research "Changing Opinion about Expanded Health Insurance Coverage in the U.S. using an Empathy-Inducing Message about the COVID-19 Pandemic"


Abstract: This study determines whether support for expanding U.S. health insurance coverage can be increased by health policy messaging that induces an emotional response of empathic concern for people who lose their employer-sponsored health insurance. We conducted an on-line survey experiment in April-May 2021 that randomly assigned participants to read/listen to one of two fact-based messages about pandemic risks. One message, designed to induce empathic concern, was about pandemic-caused risks to another person. The second message was about pandemic-caused risks to oneself. The main result was that, compared to a control group, the risk-to-others message produced significantly stronger support for expanding health insurance.  The stronger support was for policies that would allow people to buy/opt into national plans, rather than for universal coverage. The increase in support was concentrated among Republicans. We also present evidence that the risk-to-others message increased support for buy/opt-in health insurance coverage because the message increased participants’ empathic concern. The results suggest an empathy-based approach to designing messages to increase support for expanded health insurance.

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