Is the U.S. Equipped to Solve Healthcare?

Economist

David Cutler served at Harvard University as an Assistant Professor of Economics from 1991 to 1995, was named John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Social Sciences in 1995, and received tenure in 1997. He is currently the Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics in the department of economics and Kennedy School of Government and recently completed a five-year term as associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for Social Sciences.

Professor Cutler served on the Council of Economic Advisers and the National Economic Council during the Clinton Administration and was senior health care advisor to Barack Obama's Presidential campaign. Professor Cutler also advised the Presidential campaign of Bill Bradley. Among other affiliations, Professor Cutler has held positions with the National Institutes of Health and the National Academy of Sciences. Currently, Professor Cutler is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a member of the Institute of Medicine.

Professor Cutler is the author of Your Money Or Your Life: Strong Medicine for America's Health Care System, published by Oxford University Press. This book, and Professor Cutler's ideas, were the subject of a feature article in the New York Times Magazine, "The Quality Cure", by Roger Lowenstein. Cutler was recently named one of the 30 people who could have a powerful impact on healthcare by Modern Healthcare magazine and one of the 50 most influential men aged 45 and younger by Details magazine.

  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Question: Can the U.S. solve healthcare?

David Cutler:  The US is uniquely bad at some things.  Dealing with big social problems is an area where we tend to be bad. We have a very pluralistic society and people have difficulty wrapping their minds around it.  I think, as I look at the debate, I’m hopeful. And, in part, I’m hopeful because I think most people have the best intentions at heart.  So if you look, for example, at many of the Republicans in congress, I don’t know a single one whom I’ve heard say, ‘Gee, it would be a shame if everybody have insurance coverage.’ You don’t see that. What you see are people struggling to find an answer. And the struggles are in different sort of ways

Now, people on the left and the right differ about all sorts of matters, they differ about the proper role of government in market, okay fine.  They differ about how to finance things, okay fine. In the past, what’s happened is that a lot of those disagreements have overcome—have overshadowed—those areas of agreement. And then you throw in some politics, and some re-election things and so on, and they’ve all come to overshadow it. I think what we are seeing this time is somewhat different. I think what we are seeing is people really trying very hard to say, ‘OK, I’m going to put all that aside and I’m going to try see where there is consensus.’ And, you know, they’re actually following the President, who in his presidential campaign said “I’m going to gather everyone around the table, and I’m going to try and see where we can agree about what to do.”

This is a very, very hard policy problem, it’s probably the hardest policy problem we have had today. And what people are trying to do is gather around and see can they produce some consensus that really makes sense. And I’m somewhat hopeful that this time we’ll do it, even if in the past we’ve been unable to.

 


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