MIT's Amy Finkelstein is truly one of the world's premier economists. She's just teamed up with another superb economist, Stanford's Liran Einav, to write a terrific book on fixing our horrible and horribly expensive healthcare system.
This book is a must read for every American. Economists aren't supposed to write this well. But We've Got You Covered is not just a page turners. It's an every page turner. By the end of the book's 198 pages (plus 100 pages of endnotes), the reader grasps the full picture of our health system's dysfunction. That story is told on almost every page via gripping case studies.
The one that grabbed me most was the worker with third degree burns being admitted to an ER and kicked out minutes later with an IV bag. The reason? No insurance. Off he drives -- seven hours straight -- until he finally finds a hospital that will treat him. That story holds two key messages. Our country has universal health insurance -- just crappy insurance. And if you think you're fully insured with the best available plan, think again. When your favorite uninsured or under-insured niece gets stage-four cancer, guess who will be picking up the tab. Professors Einav and Finkelstein's answer is simple -- totally free basic health care for all plus supplemental health care for those who wish to purchase it. Both components could be delivered privately and competitively. As the authors argue, there are huge advantages in integrating the two levels of care.
Along its way, We've Got You Covered provides a in depth tour of foreign healthcare systems, the best of which produce dramatically better healthcare outcomes at half the cost. Given that taxpayers are paying half of America's healthcare bill, we can have first class healthcare at no extra cost. Doing far more with far less is also the message of last week's podcast with Economist James Rebitzer and his identical twin, healthcare executive, Robert Rebitzer. Their new book, Why Not Better and Cheaper, focuses on our nation's terribly inefficient means of healthcare delivery. They want to renovate the collapsing structure. Liran and Amy want to rebuild from scratch, which I advocated in The Healthcare Fix. In combo, the three books are a mini-course in health economics that all Presidential candidates who can read need read.
Now a bit about Professor Finkelstein. Amy is the John & Jennie S. MacDonald Professor of Economics at MIT, co-director and research associate of the Public Economics Program at the NBER, and the co-Scientific Director of J-PAL North America. In 2012, she received the John Bates Clark Medal awarded to the top economist under 40. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Amy won a MacArthur "Genius" fellowship in 2018. She holds a BA in government from Harvard, a M Phil in economics from Oxford, and PhD in economics from MIT.
Economic Matters - The podcast is hosted by Laurence Kotlikoff and moderated by Alex Kotlikoff.