Professors lend expertise to health care debate

As the health care debate revs up again with Republicans in control of Congress, policymakers don’t have to look very far to hear the advice of experts.

By writing editorials, producing research and maintaining websites, many faculty members from the University have become go-to experts on health care policy for Congress and the media.

Joel Teitelbaum, vice chair of academic affairs in GW’s department of health policy, said engaging with the media is important in the context of public policy because there is “a critical need for the dissemination of objective analyses carried out by faculty researchers.”

Teitelbaum has played a significant role in shaping health care policy over the past 14 years, writing several editorials and helping Congress develop testimony.

“Reforming the health care and public health systems has been an evolutionary process, culminating most recently of course with the [Patient Protection and] Affordable Care Act,” Teitelbaum said, referencing legislation signed into law last March that reduces health care costs and guarantees more health care choices.

Together, PPACA and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act make up President Barack Obama’s 2010 push for health care reform.

Recently, however, several lawsuits have been filed challenging the reform’s constitutionality.

In the rekindled debate, GW law professor Orin Kerr appeared in a Washington Post editorial saying the health care mandate will not be struck down in the courts.

Legal ramifications aside, Kerr said he does not support the health care bill and feels a more market-based solution would be a better option.

Almost a dozen other faculty members, ranging from health care policy experts to law professors, serve as authors for HealthReformGPS, a website produced in part by the University’s Hirsh Health Law and Policy Program with the purpose of presenting unbiased information about health care reform legislation.

“The site is meant to be a source of impartial, continuous, and accessible analysis that chronicles, in something approaching real-time, implementation of health reform,” Teitelbaum, who writes for the site, said.

Leighton Ku, an adjunct professor of health policy who served as a senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities for nearly 10 years, and previously testified before Congress and state legislatures, said blogs could be useful tools to communicate with the general public about health care policy.

However, Ku also warned that blogs must be supported by research.

“One of the things that has been frustrating over the years is you see people distort the truth,” Ku said. “It is easier to create appealing sounding buzz-lines. The truth is more complicated.”

As for the future of health care, Ku said it remains to be seen just how many changes the Republicans will enact.

“Certainly there are a lot of questions,” he said. “The President and some Democrats have said they are willing to make some changes.”

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