Health economists diagnose the Affordable Care Act

Dan Gorenstein Jun 13, 2016
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Felue Chang, insured under a plan through the Affordable Care Act, receives a checkup from Dr. Perla Del Pino-White at the South Broward Community Health Services clinic in Hollywood, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Health economists diagnose the Affordable Care Act

Dan Gorenstein Jun 13, 2016
Felue Chang, insured under a plan through the Affordable Care Act, receives a checkup from Dr. Perla Del Pino-White at the South Broward Community Health Services clinic in Hollywood, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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About 1,000 health care economists from around the country descend on Philadelphia this week for the biennial conference of the American Society of Health Economists.

Think of it as Woodstock for health geeks who will, over several days, present nearly 550 papers covering insurance, hospital mergers and a host of other issues.

Of all those, Obamacare will be the jam that gets played over and over with 78 papers focused on some aspect of the law.

We all know the Affordable Care Act is like a song some people love to hate.

But as Republicans in Congress hold hearings to amend the law and Louisiana expands Medicaid, there are signs of change.

University of Illinois at Chicago’s health economist Tony LoSasso is executive director of the American Society of Health Economists and oversees the annual conference.

LoSasso said research presented can help improve the law.

“What you have here is incredible collected wisdom of hundreds and hundreds of scholars learning about what we are getting for our money, learning about what works and doesn’t work,” he said.

Take for example, 19 states haven’t expanded Medicaid.

Research from people like Harvard’s Ben Sommers, who studies Medicaid expansion, shows up on Capitol Hill and in state house debates.

The impact of this work reminds Sommers of art projects in his 5-year-old son’s class.

“They put their glue all over the page and they pour their glitter all over it and then they pick it up and shake it off. And most of that glitter falls right on the floor. But a little bit of it sticks. And I like to think our research is like that,” he said.

Sommers knows a lot will go into making this law better.

He also knows a small part of it will come from the work a bunch of health policy geeks do this week.

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