This fall, we welcome Thomas Buchmueller to the helm of American Journal of Health Economics. He takes over the post of Editor-in-Chief from Frank Sloan, who is also the journal’s founding editor. Professor Buchmueller is the Waldo O. Hildebrand Professor of Risk Management and Insurance and Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Throughout his career, he has done extensive research on the links between health insurance and the labor market in the U.S., consumer demand for health insurance, the interaction between public policies and private insurance markets, and health care reform. Professor Buchmueller answered a few questions for us about his work with the journal and the future of the field of health economics.
What inspired you to move from being a contributor to the American Journal of Health Economics to editor?
This is an exciting time to be working in health economics. Over the past two decades or so, the field has grown tremendously. ASHEcon has been an important part of that growth. So, when the association decided to launch its own journal, I thought it was a great decision and I was happy to be on the editorial board and was quick to submit a paper. My experience as an author made me an even bigger fan. Frank Sloan was great to work with. We received a timely initial decision and clear guidance on how to proceed with revisions. My co-authors and I were very satisfied with the process and the outcome. So, when it came time for Frank to step down, I was interested in being part of the journal’s next chapter. But, knowing that the volume of submissions was growing, I thought a team approach would be needed to maintain Frank’s high standard for engagement. I was thrilled when Marianne Bitler, Keith Marzilli Ericson and Mireille Jacobson agreed to be co-editors.
What do you hope to bring to the American Journal of Health Economics?
We hope to build on Frank’s strong start and see the journal continue its strong trajectory. Although health economists publish in a variety of outlets—from general interest economics journals to medical and health services journals—it is important to have economics journals with a focus on health. Our goal is that the AJHE will be viewed as a top journal in the field where health economists publish their best work. And it is important to note that the first word in our title does not imply a US-centric focus. I am happy that in the short time that the new team has been in place, we have received a number of submissions from outside of North America.
Are there any submissions or forthcoming articles that have you excited?
Yes, definitely. There are several papers currently posted on the “Early Access” section of the journal’s website that I like. They are representative of important flavors of health economics research. In recent years, there has been a lot of good applied IO research on competition in health insurance markets. Health insurance exchanges, like the ACA marketplaces, provide an excellent context for testing hypotheses and evaluating policies aimed at improving the efficiency of insurance markets. Keith and his colleagues Kimberly Geissler and Benjamin Lubin have a paper that uses marketplace data to examine how risk adjustment models can be improved to better account for the spending patterns of partial-year enrollees. This is a paper that has direct practical implications for marketplace policies. Another cool paper that you can find there is one by Andrew Friedson on how the use of medical scribes can improve production efficiency in hospital emergency rooms. The paper is notable not only for the fact that this is a new and interesting topic, but for its research design: a randomly controlled trial. The results suggest that the use of scribes increases the number patients that can be seen while reducing the amount of physician overtime. A third paper that I think is going to get a lot of attention is one by Angélica Meinhofer on Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs), state-level online databases designed to track opioid prescribing. She examines the effect of PDMPs on prescriptions for opioids and stimulants and on drug-related mortality. Her results suggest that just making the data available has little effect on these outcomes, but requiring providers to consult the database before prescribing does have the effect of reducing the number of prescriptions and mortality. The opioid crisis is attracting greater attention from economists. This paper should have a significant impact on this burgeoning literature.
As you think about the future of the health economics in the U.S., what is most motivating to you?
As has been the case for years, there is no shortage of important research questions in health economics. There was a flurry of research on the immediate impacts of the Affordable Care Act. Now, as the policy is evolving differently in different states, it will be important to understand the impact of policies like work requirements and regulations aimed at either supporting or destabilizing the marketplaces. I mentioned that I really like the paper by Angélica Meinhofer on opioids. This is an area that I have also been working on recently. I think it is one where economists can make an importantcontribution.
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Keith M. Marzilli Ericson, Kimberley H. Geissler, and Benjamin Lubin
Andrew I. Friedson