Categories: Newsletter Issue 2018:3

Ten Questions for ASHEcon President Jon Gruber

By: David Slusky

1. What’s it like being ASHEcon President? What are you most proud of?

I have enjoyed being President, although I wish I had spent more time on it! I am most proud of the ASHEcon move to an annual conference and to our joint sponsorship with HERO of AEA sessions.

2. What has surprised you the most?

How many dedicated folks there are in the ASHEcon community to advancing our organization.

3. What were the highlights of the Atlanta conference for you?

The highlight for me personally was the very positive response to my lunchtime talk. It was a very personal talk for me and I put a lot of effort into it, so it was a pleasure to see that it was well received. The other ongoing highlight was seeing the enormous presence of young health economists at the meeting – our field is really booming.

[Ed.: More about Jon Gruber’s lunch talk here.]

4. What was the most unexpected result you saw presented at ASHEcon?

How enjoyable the poster session was – I wish I could have had even longer to peruse the presentations.

5. What are you most looking forward in the move to an annual conference?

I am most looking forward to using this as a way to further build the coherence of and dedication to the ASHEcon meeting as a centerpiece of the U.S. health economics community.

6. What new opportunities are possible in a conference in DC?

I am excited about the possibility of using this event to further show the policy community how the research being done in health economics today can lead to more rational and informed policy making.

7. What are you working on these days?

I like to try to balance my time between purely academic work and work that applies economics to more applied policy problems. On the former front, I am engaging in a series of studies of the Military Health System, studying ambulance transportation and hospital emergency rooms, and working on choice within health insurance markets. On the latter front, I am working on health care reform in India and am writing a book making the case for more public investment in R&D and laying out a plan for what that investment might look like.

8. What kinds of results are you finding about the Military Health System?

On the military health system, I am working with Mike Frakes on several projects. The first is using the facts that active duty patients treated on military bases can’t sue for malpractice to estimate defensive medicine – we estimate about a 5% reduction in care when patients can’t sue.

[Ed.: Here’s the working paper.]

9. What are the specific challenges faced by the Indian health system?

The main challenge is that such a large share of the population is so poor. In the U.S. there are already enough resources in the system to provide financial protection for everyone; it’s just a matter of reorganizing the system. That simply isn’t true in India. The country currently has the highest share of medical spending paid out of pocket in the entire world (70%).

10. What kinds of solutions are you proposing?

Promoting true risk sharing is going to mean a much more vigorous private insurance market and more government resources devoted to the problem.

Jon Gruber is the Ford Professor of Economics at MIT and the President of ASHEcon. He has a Ph.D. from Harvard University.

David Slusky is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Kansas and the Editor of ASHEcon’s newsletter. He has a Ph.D. from Princeton University.