Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Lecture 5:30 p.m.
Reception immediately following
Annenberg Presidential Conference Center
1002 George Bush Drive West
College Station, TX
Dr. Jonathan Gruber
Dr. Jonathan Gruber with Dr. Laura Dague
On Tuesday, March 20, 2018, the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy and the Texas A&M Economics Department hosted a Conversation in Public Policy featuring Dr. Jonathan Gruber, the Ford Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and noted health economist. Dr. Gruber, who served as a technical consultant to the Obama Administration on the Affordable Care Act, shared his expertise in his talk entitled The Affordable Care Act: Will It Survive and What Comes Next?
The event began with welcoming remarks from Dr. Lori Taylor, Director of the Mosbacher Institute, and an introduction of Dr. Gruber by Dr. Jason Lindo, Associate Professor of Economics at Texas A&M University.
Dr. Gruber began his talk with a description of the origins of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the Republican healthcare plan he helped design and implement in Massachusetts during Mitt Romney’s governorship. The Romneycare plan, he said, was based on a three-legged stool of (1) requiring health insurance companies to stop discriminating on the basis of preexisting health conditions, (2) distributing the insurance pool risk across more healthy people with the individual mandate requirement, and (3) helping people who could not afford insurance with subsidies. He noted that while the first part was very popular, all three legs were critical to the reform.
Keeping the crowd engaged with humorous remarks and anecdotes, Dr. Gruber argued that the ACA fairly successfully accomplished its goals of increasing insurance coverage among Americans and fixing a broken healthcare market, but that the evidence on whether it has lowered healthcare costs remains inconclusive. Dr. Gruber also predicted that, with the repeal of the individual mandate, insurance companies would have to increase premiums. For the future, Dr. Gruber predicted that policy goals would revolve around controlling costs, with the means of doing so depending on the political party in control.
In the second half of the program, Assistant Professor Laura Dague of the Bush School of Government and Public Service engaged Dr. Gruber in an on-stage discussion, asking questions submitted by the audience along with her own. Dr. Dague, the Bush School’s own expert in health policy, pressed Dr. Gruber on a variety of topics, beginning with how healthcare markets differ economically from other markets. The two economists also discussed the possibility of the uninsured rate increasing due to recent policy changes to the penalty for not buying insurance. Additionally, the conversation touched on why the health insurance reimbursement system in the United States may cause technology to increase costs instead of decrease, as it does in other markets, and how public policies could begin to tackle the difficult task of modifying unhealthy individual behaviors.
Before closing the program, Dr. Taylor presented Dr. Gruber with a plaque commemorating his visit to Texas A&M University and invited everyone to a reception in the lobby.
Dr. Jonathan Gruber is the Ford Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught since 1992. He is also the Director of the Health Care Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and President of the American Society of Health Economists. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Social Insurance, and the Econometric Society. He has published more than 160 research articles, has edited six research volumes, and is the author of Public Finance and Public Policy, a leading undergraduate text, and Health Care Reform, a graphic novel. In 2006 he received the American Society of Health Economists Inaugural Medal for the best health economist in the nation aged 40 and under.
During the 1997-1998 academic year, Dr. Gruber was on leave as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the Treasury Department. From 2003-2006 he was a key architect of Massachusetts’ ambitious health reform effort, and in 2006 became an inaugural member of the Health Connector Board, the main implementing body for that effort. During 2009-2010 he served as a technical consultant to the Obama Administration and worked with both the Administration and Congress to help craft the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In 2011 he was named “One of the Top 25 Most Innovative and Practical Thinkers of Our Time” by Slate Magazine. In both 2006 and 2012 he was rated as one of the top 100 most powerful people in health care in the United States by Modern Healthcare Magazine. Dr. Gruber is the Chair of the Industry Advisory Board for Flare Capital Partners, and is on the board of the Health Care Cost Institute.