WMU News

Economics of health care is focus of annual lecture series

Sept. 2, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- The prognosis for the nation's health care industry and the role governments, enterprises and consumers play in its economic vitality will be explored in the 36th annual public lecture-seminar series offered by Western Michigan University's Department of Economics.

The series, titled "The Economics of Health Care," will feature a number of noteworthy scholars who will examine critical issues affecting an industry that accounts for more than 15 percent of the United State's gross national product.

"Health care is an issue of growing importance," says Dr. Huizhong Zhou, WMU associate professor of economics and director of the series. "If you look at health care as a consumption good, people are spending more and more on it when their income grows. At the same time, on the industry side, it is becoming more and more expensive because medical technologies are now trying to treat more difficult and chronic diseases. It comes down to a question of who should finance health care."

Dr. Jonathan Gruber, professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will kick off the series by addressing the governmental role in health care economics at 3 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 15, in 3508 Knauss Hall.

Gruber, who served as the deputy assistant secretary for economic policy for the U.S. Treasury Department, will speak on the topic of "Government Financing of Care for Low Income Population." The director of the Program on Children at the National Bureau of Economic Research, his research has focused on efficiency of the nation's system of delivering health care to the indigent, the economics of employer-provided health care insurance and the effect of the Social Security program on retirement behavior. Gruber, who holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard, has received both an Alfred B. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship and a Presidential Faculty Fellow award from the National Science Foundation.

Other speakers in this year's series and the topics they will address are:

All lectures begin at 3 p.m. in Room 3508 of Knauss Hall and are free and open to the public. Each scholar will also present a seminar for professional economists, faculty and graduate students. For more information, persons should contact Zhou by phone at (616) 387-5550 or by email to zhou@wmich.edu.

The Department of Economics and the College of Arts and Sciences co-sponsor the series with the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. Assisting Zhou in directing the lecture series this year are Drs. Donald L. Alexander and Bassam E. Harik, associate professors of economics at WMU, and Allan Hunt of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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