Tax forms with laptop, glasses, pen, and calculator.

The Tax Code Needs to Do More for Public Health

By Bailey Kennedy

With the pain of tax day now a month behind us, it’s worth talking about something that we don’t often associate with the tax code: health. It’s not easy to imagine that the tax code could truly do much to make Americans happier and healthier — but there are ways that it could. Federal and state tax codes could both be reformed in small ways that might encourage Americans to make healthier decisions.

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Female hand writing signature on the paper document.

How to Construct Better Organ Donation Policy and Achieve Health Equity

By James R. Jolin

The United States is facing an organ donation crisis, with massive gaps between supply and demand.

Per estimates from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), over 106,000 Americans are currently awaiting this life-saving medical treatment. Further, the burden of this shortage falls unequally:  in 2020, while approximately 48% of white patients in need of transplants received an organ, only 27% of Black patients secured one.

The stakes are too high to allow the organ donation crisis to proceed in the U.S. without bold intervention. But with many policy options on the table, unresolved ethical concerns, and a patchwork of organ donation laws across the country, the proper path forward is not immediately clear.

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Two women shaking hands.

An Empathetic Ear: Strategies for Employer Health and Wellness Negotiations

By Stacey Lee, Jacobo Guzman, and Gladys Johnson

Amid federal and state vaccine mandates, labor shortages, and increased requests for remote work flexibility, employers find themselves in an evolving landscape with less latitude over their organization’s workplace. As a result, employers and employees find themselves in conversations about crafting a “new normal” in which worker well-being is featured more prominently than before.

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carrot dangling on a string.

International Pandemic Lawmaking: Some Perspectives from Behavioral Economics

This post was originally published on the Verfassungsblog as part of our joint symposium on international pandemic lawmaking.

By Anne Van Aaken and Tomer Broude

In this brief essay, we wish to highlight some insights from behavioral economics that can contribute to a successful process of international pandemic lawmaking. Our interest here is not to engage with individual or collective psychological reactions to pandemics or other large-scale risks, or with substantive policy made in their wake. Several such behavioral issues and dimensions have been dealt with elsewhere, not without (ongoing) spirited debate. For example, the utility of simple reminders to get vaccinated as individual “nudges,” contrasting with enforced vaccination is a continuing issue. Indeed, the WHO is addressing such approaches through the Technical Advisory Group on Behavioural Insights and Sciences for Health, in accordance with general UN behavioral science policy. Similarly, elite decision-makers’ tendencies towards procrastination and omission bias in the face of high degrees of uncertainty, on both national and international levels have arguably negatively impacted large-scale policies with respect to COVID-19. Understanding these and other behavioral dynamics may be crucial in determining the substantive content of a cooperative pandemic regime. Here, however, while building on related frameworks of analysis from the field of behavioral economics, as applied to international law (including nudge theory), our focus is on the process and design of pandemic international law-making.

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elderly person's hand clasped in young person's hands

Vulnerability Theory and Health Justice

By Matthew B. Lawrence

If we want to understand how changes to the law might affect health outcomes, we must remain mindful that the law not only regulates how we behave in the world as it is, but also shapes the institutions and structures that make the world the way it is.

The dominant theoretical frameworks of classical liberalism and behavioral economics obscure this critical relationship.

In this blog post, I suggest that health justice and vulnerability theory fill this theoretical gap, and serve as invaluable, and largely complementary, frameworks for understanding health law and policy.

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Adult and child holding kidney shaped paper on textured blue background.

Nudging Organ Donation in the United States

Cross-posted from Harvard Law Today, where it originally appeared on November 13, 2020. 

By Chloe Reichel

Nationally and globally, demand for organ transplants outstrips supply. In the United States last year, 19,267 donors made a record-setting 39,718 transplants possible, but nearly 109,000 Americans still remain on the organ transplant waiting list.

Cass Sunstein ’78, Robert Walmsley University Professor and former Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration, believes “Nudge theory” might help bridge this gap between supply and demand.

Sunstein joined scholars and leaders in transplant services on Friday, Nov. 6 to discuss strategies to boost rates of organ donation at “Nudging Organ Donation: Tools to Encourage Organ Availability,” an event hosted by the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School.

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A calculator, a stethoscope, and a stack of money rest on a table.

Why Our Health Care Is Incomplete: Review of “Exposed” (Part II)

By: Daniel Aaron

Just last month, Professor Christopher T. Robertson, at the University of Arizona College of Law, released his new book about health care, entitled Exposed: Why Our Health Insurance Is Incomplete and What Can Be Done About It. Part II of this book review offers an analytical discussion of “cost exposure,” the main subject of his book with a focus on solutions. Read Part I here.

Baby solutions

Prof. Robertson writes two chapters on solutions. In the first, titled “Fixes We Could Try,” he offers reforms, from mild to moderate, that would make cost exposure less harmful. The chapter largely retains the analytical nature of the prior chapters, but it comes across like a chapter he might have rather not written. This is evident in the following chapter’s title, “What We Must Do.” It’s also evident because some of the proposals do not seem fully considered, and in some ways appear more controversial than the more comprehensive solution offered later. Read More

A calculator, a stethoscope, and a stack of money rest on a table.

Why Our Health Care Is Incomplete: Review of “Exposed” (Part I)

By: Daniel Aaron

Just last month, Professor Christopher T. Robertson, at the University of Arizona College of Law, released his new book about health care, entitled Exposed: Why Our Health Insurance Is Incomplete and What Can Be Done About It. This book review will offer an analytical discussion of “cost exposure,” the main subject of his book.

What is cost exposure in health care?

Cost exposure is payments people make related to their medical care. There are many ways patients pay – here are a few common ones.

  • Deductible – Patient is responsible for the first, say, $5,000 of their medical care; after this point, the health insurance kicks in. Resets each year.
  • Copay – Patient pays a specific amount, say $25, when having an episode of care.
  • Coinsurance – Patient pays a specified percentage, say 20%, of care.

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Illustration of four people helping each other climb progressively taller stacks of books

What’s Missing From Biotech Graduate Education? With Free Course, RA Capital Attempts to Fill the Gaps

By Jessica Sagers

As a PhD student in the life sciences at Harvard, I attended almost every career seminar that came through my inbox. I had no idea what I wanted to do after finishing my research doctorate, but I was certain that it wasn’t more cell culture.

The walls of my academic bubble were so thick that even as a budding cell biologist, I’d managed to hear almost nothing about Boston’s booming biotech industry. “Going into industry” was regarded as an “alternative career,” to the point where it sounded like taking a job outside of academia was tantamount to abandoning science. Besides, all my training had been in basic science. The coursework I’d excelled in, from neurobiology to biophysics, did not equip me to translate what I’d learned to the business world.

During my final PhD year, curiosity about the biotech sector drove me to accept an internship at RA Capital Management, a life science-focused investment firm in Boston. Dr. Peter Kolchinsky (Harvard Program in Virology, ’01), Founder and Managing Partner of RA Capital, brought me and a group of fellow PhD students on board to help achieve his vision of providing more pragmatic, focused training to scientists and professionals interested in working in biotechnology. Together, we designed a short, advanced course on the business of biotech designed to fit the practical needs of late-stage graduate students and early-career professionals.

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