April 12, 2016

New Becker-Friedman Initiative Explores the Economics of Healthcare

Late last month, the Becker Friedman Institute announced a new initiative studying markets and health care.

The Health Economics Initiative will study health care markets and the forces that affect them by funding original research and building a community of scholars within this field. The first phase of the initiative will be the Program on Foundational Research in Health Care Markets and Policies. This program will combine the resources of the Harris School of Public Policy, the University’s Department of Medicine, and its Department of Economics.

“The program will encourage analysis of the economic forces that shape health care costs, coverage, provision, and outcomes: incentives, innovation, regulation, competition, labor markets, public financing of health care programs and fiscal constraints, and international differences in health care policies, markets, and technology,” the Institute’s statement read.

The pharmaceutical firm Pfizer and the Charles Koch Foundation, which supports research that advances “free societies,” were among the donors to the initiative.

This program represents the latest example of cooperation between the graduate schools on the study of health care and economics. The Health Economics Initiative builds upon a history of collaboration between the social science and medical departments in the University, such as the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine (HIPS) B.A. program.

“There’s a long history of interdisciplinary collaboration across the University. I run the Center for Health and the Social Sciences, which is committed to connecting people around the University from different social science disciplines and the graduate schools that practice social science, with the medical school to do research at that intersection,” said associate professor and co-director of the program David Meltzer.

The Becker Friedman Institute’s program will focus more on the research of economic theory than its counterparts. “I think part of the interest here is in understanding some of the contributions that more rigorous theory can make that may not have been as appreciated before,” Meltzer said.

The program is currently taking applications from doctoral students in economics and public policy for fellowships and research positions.

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