Amherst Connects: The telephone Lecture Series

Walter E. Nicholson
Ward H. Patton Professor of Economics


Jessica W. Reyes '94
Associate Professor of Economics

"Economic Perspectives on Healthcare Reform"

May 5, 2010

Supplemental Reading materials and links

  1. "Rethinking Social Insurance" --Martin Feldstein (pdf)
  2. "Single Payer, Many Faults" --Joseph Rago (link to WSJ article)
  3. "The Cost Conundrum" --Atul Gawande (The New Yorker)
  4. "The Economic Case for Healthcare Reform"--Council of Economic Advisers

Listen to Audio of the Lecture

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Online Forum - Your Questions

Below are some of the questions that we weren't able to address during the call. Continue the conversation online with one another - login and click "add a comment" to respond to a question, or submit your own question.


Question from Bruce Lessels '83

Would a single payer system be likely to control/reduce costs more effectively than the reform that was passed?

Question from Roger Hull '59

How do we move from a primarily "fee for service" system to the Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Models for Healthcare delivery?

Question from Gene Nogi '02

Many healthcare and finance experts have estimated that the true costs of healthcare reform are at least $1 trillion understated.  What economic benefit in this legislation justifies the expense?  


Question from Mark Nadel '78

Shouldn’t insurance companies be doing more to:

1. widely publicize the specific procedures that the Dartmouth study finds have questionable value

2. offer to pay their customers a small reward for forgoing such procedures

3. provide charts revealing the differing prices and consumer comments about using different doctors or hospitals to handle specific medical problems and

4. offering higher reimbursements to customers who choose lower cost providers (who, presumably, will often produce the same or better results as higher cost providers)


Question from Cheryl Zaccagnino, Parent '12

How will technology be used under healthcare reform to automate health records and expand performance measurement to ensure better outcomes?  Impact on jobs creation for technology and other professionals ?  Where to find  more information on this topic?


Question from John McKenzie '66

Please comment on the nomination of Donald Berwick to oversee the implementation of the recent health care bill.


Question from Michael Chen '08

In response to Reyes: I've always understood that even though we have high cost/low-value health care options, they generally fall under the "experimental" category of health care.  As such, shouldn't they also provide some value by acting as a sort of field research?  I've been under the assumption that though American heathcare is more expensive, it's also the most advanced.  As such, like any R&D department, shouldn't we expect it to be costly and with a lot of failed experiments, but worth it overall for the "golden nuggets" that we may get?  Would having a more equitable healthcare system risk our position as the leader in health care innovation?


Question from Thomas Suher '71

Thanks for the discussion and the recommended readings.  It seems that the major thrust for the recent healthcare legislation was focused and certainly “marketed” on health insurance reform and everyone from the President to Secretary Sibelius to the Congressional leaders to many economists have asserted that as long as we get the insurance companies to behave, we will generally be in good shape and will largely address problems of cost growth and accessibility.  This doesn’t seem to be supported by the readings (especially the New Yorker article) or by the comments made thus far and in fact doesn’t seem to be logical.