Tyler Cowen and Amitabh Chandra on economics of health care

St. Olaf professor Ashley Hodgson with Amitabh Chandra and Tyler Cowen.
St. Olaf economics professor Ashley Hodgson, left, moderates a discussion with economists Amitabh Chandra and Tyler Cowen on the kind of health care system the U.S. should adopt.
Courtesy of Kierra Lopac

Two prominent economists share their views on the politics, economics and ethics of health care reform.

Tyler Cowen is professor of economics at George Mason University and the Center for the Study of Public Choice and has earned numerous accolades, including being named a Top 100 Global Thinker by Foreign Policy. He is also one of The Economist's most influential economists of the decade.

Cowen says public health is very important, even more important than medical care. He says the best way to improve health care in America is to boost innovation, and that spending more on innovation is actually an "egalitarian approach."

"Innovation should out-race coverage," Cowen said. "We are not innovating enough in most areas of the economy, other than tech."

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Amitabh Chandra is a professor of public policy and director of Health Policy Research at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and is a frequent commentator in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other national publications.

Chandra said there are three challenges in health care: coverage, quality and innovation. He calls this a "trilemma."

1) How do we cover people?

2) How do we make sure everybody gets quality health care?

3) How do we continue to do 1 and 2 as new medical innovations arrive?

Chandra says we should not pursue only two of these three challenges.

Regarding the current "reform" debate, Chandra said "health is not the same as health care, and health care isn't the same as health insurance." A key philosophical and ethical question is, "what are we willing to do for the poor and the sick?"

Economists Cowen and Chandra spoke at the St. Olaf College Institute on Freedom and Community on April 26, 2018. The moderator was St. Olaf College associate professor of economics, Ashley Hodgson. The director of the Institute on Freedom and Community is philosophy and religion professor Edmund Santurri.

To listen to the program, click the audio players above.