Indemnifying precaution: Economic insights for regulation of a highly infectious disease

Christopher T. Robertson, K. Aleks Schaefer, Daniel Scheitrum, Sergio Puig, Keith Joiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Economic insights are powerful for understanding the challenge of managing a highly infectious disease, such as COVID-19, through behavioral precautions including social distancing. One problem is a form of moral hazard, which arises when some individuals face less personal risk of harm or bear greater personal costs of taking precautions. Without legal intervention, some individuals will see socially risky behaviors as personally less costly than socially beneficial behaviors, a balance that makes those beneficial behaviors unsustainable. For insights, we review health insurance moral hazard, agricultural infectious disease policy, and deterrence theory, but find that classic enforcement strategies of punishing noncompliant people are stymied. One mechanism is for policymakers to indemnify individuals for losses associated with taking those socially desirable behaviors to reduce the spread. We develop a coherent approach for doing so, based on conditional cash payments and precommitments by citizens, which may also be reinforced by social norms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Law and the Biosciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


  • COVID-19
  • behavioral science
  • incentives
  • moral hazard
  • public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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