RSF Author Katherine Swartz on Federal Reinsurance Program to Address COVID-19 Healthcare Crisis

April 6, 2020

In a recent blog post for Health Affairs, health policy scholars Katherine Swartz (Harvard University) and Sherry Glied (New York University) advocate for the implementation of a temporary federal reinsurance system to address the significant, unexpected costs of COVID-19 medical treatment. Swartz and Glied outline the financial threats to hospitals forced to deliver acute care for COVID-19 patients, including the uninsured. The authors also highlight the considerable financial burdens for both insured patients who may face high deductible payments and surprise bills as well as the uninsured, who may be forced to underwrite the entire cost of their care. The consequences of mounting medical expenses for individuals are likely to be exacerbated by lost income and unemployment, which has skyrocketed as the pandemic spread in the United States. Swartz and Glied advocate for federal reinsurance as a protective measure for providers, patients, and insurance companies that will ensure that hospitals and patients can meet their financial obligations in this time of grave financial uncertainty and distress.

Katherine Swartz was a visiting scholar at the foundation in 2000-2001 when she worked on a book outlining the reasons for Americans’ unequal access to health insurance. Russell Sage published Swartz’s book, Reinsuring Health: Why More Middle Class People are Uninsured and What Government Can Do in 2007.  The foundation has supported Swartz’s research, most recently with a presidential authority grant for a collaborative project on the impact of the Trump administration’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Swartz is a professor in the Department of Health Policy & Management at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Since 2005, she has been the Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Scholars in Health Policy Research Program at Harvard University.

Sherry Glied is a professor and dean of New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. She  served as Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services and Senior Economist for health care and labor market policy on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2010 to 2012.

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