Department Hosts 30th Anniversary Symposium

December 6, 2018

On December 4, 2018, the Harvard Medical School Department of Health Care Policy hosted a symposium to celebrate its 30 year anniversary. Current and former Harvard faculty, important figures in health care policy, and esteemed colleagues joined at Harvard Medical School to celebrate this milestone.

The symposium, held at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center, was introduced by Ridley Watts Professor of Health Care Policy and department of health care policy head Barbara J. McNeil, MD, PhD. Harvard Medical School Dean George Q. Daley, MD, PhD, expressed his admiration of the department and offered congratulations. President of Harvard University Lawrence S. Bacow, JD, MPP, PhD, addressed the crowd, praising Barbara for her outstanding leadership and proclaiming the importance of the department’s work in today’s world.

 Faculty of the department gathered to present on “Transforming Healthcare in America: Lessons from the Affordable Care Act” through a variety of topics. The first session, moderated by John D. MacArthur Professor of Health Policy and Management Joseph P. Newhouse, PhD, discussed private insurance. Margaret T. Morris Professor of Health Care Policy Richard Frank, PhD, presented on choice and competition in the individual health insurance market, while professor of health care economics Thomas McGuire, PhD, covered risk adjustment, reinsurance, and risk corridors in the ACA marketplaces. 30th Anniversary Professor of Health Care Policy Haiden Huskamp, PhD, gave a presentation titled “Gains in Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Coverage Under Parity and Health Reform”. Jeanne Lambrew, PhD, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, served as commentator for the session, focusing on human capital and policymaker’s desire to make a difference in health care.

The second session of the symposium covered Medicaid. S. James Adelstein Professor of Health Care Policy (Biostatistics) Sharon-Lise T. Normand, PhD, moderated the session where Benjamin Sommers, MD, PhD, associate professor of health policy and economics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, spoke on the evidence of Medicaid expansion. Associate professor of health care policy Nicole Maestas, PhD, presented on the intertwined reforms of Medicaid and federal disability programs. The managed care and program design of Medicaid was covered by assistant professor of health care policy Timothy Layton, PhD. Cindy Mann, JD, a partner at Manatt Health acted as commentator.

After a short break, professor of health care policy Bruce Landon, MD, lead a session on payment approaches. Leonard D. Schaffer Professor of Health Care Policy Michael E. Chernew, PhD, presented on episode-based payment while Warren Alpert Foundation Professor of Health Care Policy J. Michael McWilliams, MD, PhD, spoke on the promise, progress, and problems of population-based payment models. Associate professor of health care policy Laura A. Hatfield, PhD, gave a presentation on evaluating health policy and how to know if alternative payment models are working.

Following the sessions, Bruce Landon interviewed Donald M. Berwick, MD, MPP, a senior fellow at the Institute of Healthcare Improvement, and Peter Slavin, MD, president of Massachusetts General Hospital on their views of affordable care organizations and political influences on the United States’ health care policies. Peter Slavin explained Massachusetts General Hospital’s involvement in global governing and stated that we must pay more attending to social determinants of health.  Don Berwick declared that “we’re where we want to be with health care when all the hospitals are empty.” He expressed that we must focus on inequality in health care and provide solutions in the communities where it matters the most.

The symposium closed with a keynote address from Kathleen Sebelius, MPA, the CEO of Sebelius Resources and former United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. She spoke on the creation of the Affordable Care Act and how health care may be affected, both positively and negatively, following the 2018 election. Following her talk, Kathleen was interviewed by the Dean of the NYU Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service Sherry Glied, PhD. Kathleen and Sherry reflected on their time together in the Department of Health and Human Services and discussed the Obama administration and the process of passing the Affordable Care Act.

The symposium was attended by three hundred and fifty doctors, professors, medical students, and other health care professionals.

Founded in 1988, the HMS department of health care policy was the first of its kind in a medical school. In this new department, physicians and social scientists were on equal footing, taught and conducted research together, were located in the same physical space, and had the same chances for academic advancement. Since its founding, approximately fifteen other medical schools have established academic departments, centers, or divisions devoted to research and education in health care policy.

The combined expertise of the faculty allows HCP to study important policy areas related to health care costs, patient outcomes, clinical effectiveness, and technology assessment. Large grants spanning several years have allowed the department to recruit talented social scientists and physician-researchers, and the department has created eight endowed professorships.

The department of health care policy has become a pivotal component of education for medical and graduate students in the health policy doctoral program. More than 350 students have received or are pursuing doctoral degrees in health care policy through the department. Thousands of medical students get their first introduction to health policy through HCP’s courses and grants program.

The symposium was featured in The Harvard CrimsonThe Harvard Gazette and on the Harvard Medical School website.