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Health economists may be getting the supply-and-demand framework all wrong

A Health Podyssey

Health economists may be getting the supply-and-demand framework all wrong

Listen to Health Affairs Editor-in-Chief Alan Weil interview Dr. Adam Gaffney, a pulmonary specialist from Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School, on how medical care use could change under…
January 25, 2021
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Wise-Formerly Transferwise

Health economists may be getting the supply-and-demand framework all wrong

Have health economists been underestimating supply-side constraints when making predictions regarding cost and utilization for universal health coverage programs, such as Medicare For All? That’s certainly what Dr. Adam Gaffney, a pulmonary specialist from Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School, and colleagues posit in a new policy paper published in the January 2021 issue of Health Affairs.

As Gaffney and co-authors note in their paper, “focusing only on the impact of health care reform on government expenditures is short-sighted.” On the supply side, there’s a natural limit to doctor and nurses’ time as well as the number of hospital beds in a given facility.

Their analysis suggest that while first-dollar universal coverage expansion would increase ambulatory visits by about 7-10% and hospital use by about 0-3%, modest administrative savings could offset the costs of these increases.

On this episode of A Health Podyssey, Alan Weil and Adam Gaffney take listeners through health reform economics 101 before sharing the implications of the paper, ultimately questioning whether health reform is too focused on a demand-side framework.

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