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Event Summary


If America’s health care financing system were redesigned from the ground up, what should that system look like? At an AEI event on Tuesday, leading health scholars from across the nation gathered to discuss a plan for achieving affordable coverage for all Americans while maintaining personal choice and efficiency, detailed in the recently released AEI paper “Best of both worlds: Uniting universal coverage and personal choice in health care.”

Darius Lakdawalla of the University of Southern California described how Americans overwhelmingly approve of government involvement in health care and feel that they have a social obligation to protect the vulnerable. Amitabh Chandra of Harvard University stressed that the key to achieving affordable, universal, and efficient coverage is discouraging community rating and establishing personalized premiums, premium supports, and long-term contracts. Anupam Jena of Harvard Medical School then discussed the proposal’s example of a basic health plan, under which all populations except the “rich sick” would enjoy significant financial benefits.

Nina Owcharenko of the Heritage Foundation applauded the proposal for its suggestions to control public spending and leverage choice and competition against price increases. However, she emphasized the political difficulty of balancing a generous basic plan with financial control. Finally, Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution questioned the proposal’s strategy for estimating families’ future health care costs, but he agreed that preserving choice for all health care consumers is essential.
–Neil McCray

Event Description

The debate over US health care reform and the resulting Affordable Care Act (ACA) laid out several key priorities: (1) grant Americans universal access to health coverage regardless of health status; (2) grant affordable coverage regardless of ability to pay; and (3) contain rising health expenditures.

The ACA’s implementation process has been bumpy, yet high uninsurance rates and lack of access for those with expensive conditions make reverting to the status quo a nonstarter.

In their forthcoming AEI paper, titled “Best of both worlds: Uniting universal coverage and personal choice in health care,” leading health economists from the nation’s top universities chart a new path: comprehensive, market-based health reform that would guarantee affordability, personal choice, and universal coverage. Join some of the authors, along with notable health scholars from the left and right, for the paper’s release and a new debate over the priorities and policies that will most effectively reform health care.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


11:45 AM
Registration and Lunch

12:00 PM
Opening Remarks:
Henry Olsen, AEI

12:05 PM
Author Presentations:
Amitabh Chandra, Harvard University
Anupam Jena, Harvard Medical School
Darius Lakdawalla, University of Southern California

12:30 PM
Henry Aaron, Brookings Institution
Nina Owcharenko, Heritage Foundation

12:45 PM

Joseph Antos, AEI

1:05 PM
Audience Question-and-Answer Session

1:30 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Brad Wassink at [email protected], 202.862.7197.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Henry Aaron is currently the Bruce and Virginia MacLaury Senior Fellow in the economic studies program at the Brookings Institution. A noted health care expert, Aaron focuses on the reform of health care financing, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and tax and budget policy. He previously served as the director of the Economic Studies program at Brookings, taught at the University of Maryland, and served as assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the US Department of Health and Human Services, which was at the time the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the advisory committee of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, and the visiting committee of the Harvard Medical School.

Joseph Antos is the Wilson H. Taylor Scholar in Health Care and Retirement Policy at AEI. Antos’s research focuses on the economics of health policy and federal budget policy. He has written and spoken extensively on the Medicare drug benefit and has evaluated various proposals to extend health coverage to the uninsured. Antos is also a health adviser to the Congressional Budget Office and recently completed two terms as a commissioner of the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission. Before joining AEI, Antos was assistant director for health and human resources at the Congressional Budget Office and held senior positions in the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Management and Budget, and the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Amitabh Chandra is a professor of public policy and director of health policy research at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is a member of the Congressional Budget Office’s Panel of Health Advisors and is the chief scientific officer for Precision Health Economics. His research focuses on productivity and cost growth in health care, medical malpractice, and racial disparities in health care. He is currently an editor of the Review of Economics and Statistics, is a former editor of the Journal of Human Resources, and is on the editorial boards of Economics Letters and the American Economic Journal. He has previously served as a consultant to the RAND Corporation, Microsoft Research, the Institute of Medicine, and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts.

Anupam Jena, MD, is an assistant professor of health care policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School and a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he practices general inpatient medicine. His research involves several areas of health economics and policy, including medical malpractice, medical innovation, cost effectiveness, physician behavior, and geographic variation in medical care. His work has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, Annals of Internal Medicine, Health Affairs, Journal of Health Economics, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Dr. Jena is also a research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Darius Lakdawalla is a professor of pharmaceutical economics and policy at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Pharmacy and Sol Price School of Public Policy. He also serves as the Quintiles Chair in Pharmaceutical and Regulatory Innovation. Lakdawalla is likewise the director of research at the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at USC. His research concerns the economics of risks to health, the incentives and effects of medical innovation, the economics of health insurance markets, and the industrial organization of health care markets. His work has been published in leading journals of economics, medicine, and health policy.  Lakdawalla is currently a research associate in the health care and health economics programs at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a visiting scholar at AEI.

Henry Olsen is a lawyer by training and the director of AEI’s National Research Initiative. In that capacity, he identifies leading academics and public intellectuals who work in an aspect of domestic public policy and recruits them to visit or write for AEI. Olsen studies and writes about the policy and political implications of long-term trends in social, economic, and political thought. Before joining AEI, he was the executive director of the Center for Civic Innovation at the Manhattan Institute, president of the Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives, and an attorney for Dechert, Price, and Rhoads.

Nina Owcharenko is director of the Center for Health Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, overseeing Heritage’s research on health care reform, on Medicare and Medicaid, on children’s health, and on prescription drugs. Her research and analysis have been published in newspapers and periodicals around the country, as well as in policy journals such as Health Affairs. She won Heritage’s W. Glenn and Rita Ricardo Campbell Award in recognition for her work on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and was named Heritage’s Preston A. Wells Jr. Fellow in Health Policy in April 2012. Owcharenko also spent nearly a decade as a Capitol Hill staffer, serving as legislative director to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC).

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