July 6, 2016
On June 18, 2016, Joseph Newhouse received an honorary degree—doctor of public policy—from the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The degree is the culmination of Newhouse’s multi-decade career in health policy, punctuated by groundbreaking policy research and significant work with experts and students alike.
Newhouse began his career in health policy at RAND in 1968 as a staff economist. He would go on to spend twenty years at RAND before leaving to help launch HCP, although he continued to be involved with RAND for years afterward.
Among his accomplishments was Newhouse’s work designing and conducting the RAND Health Insurance Experiment, the largest policy study in U.S. and considered the gold standard for predicting the impact of health reforms on medical spending.
The experiment, conducted between 1974 and 1981, provided health insurance to nearly 6,000 individuals and randomly assigned them to different insurance plans with different levels of cost sharing. The study showed that higher co-insurance rates could reduce usage without sacrificing outcomes.
These findings had an enormous impact on the field and still influence the ways in which researchers conduct experiments.
Newhouse headed the RAND economics department for five years, and introduced statisticians as part of the research team in the department. His experience of hiring health economists led him to the belief that there should be a new, innovative way to train them—implemented later at HCP. In the 1990s, Newhouse also served on the advisory board for the Pardee School.
At the RAND commencement in Santa Monica, the president of RAND, Michael D. Rich, presented the award to Newhouse. Reading the citation, Rich summarized Newhouse’s influence on RAND and the industry: “Since the early 1980s, Joseph Newhouse has been a formative voice in the analysis, reform, and improvement of the nation’s health care system.
“Newhouse has mentored and taught generations of new researchers and students who have continued his legacy of dedication to asking difficult questions, conducting the highest-quality research, and pursuing the public good.”
In Newhouse's remarks at the commencement, he said, “I am grateful to PRGS for this honor and to RAND for providing such an intellectually stimulating environment for the 20 years I spent here. They were wonderful years, and I look back at them fondly.”
Newhouse also saved some insight for the newly graduated students, saying, “You have trained in an environment that values collegiality and interdisciplinary work. That culture should serve you well as you go forward with your careers."