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Harvard U. Hosts Debate Between Candidates' Health Advisers

This story was written by Danielle Kim, Harvard Crimson

Two economists who are advising the presidential candidates on health care policy discussed the merits of each candidates plans at a debate held at the Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School yesterday.

Economics professor David M. Cutler, a senior adviser to Democrat Barack Obama, and University of Chicago economist Tomas J. Philipson addressed the issues of high costs of health care, centralized versus privatized care, and the role that technology can play in improving health care outcomes. Both Cutler and Philipson cited affordability and accesibility as top priorities.

Moderated by Petrie-Flom fellow Allison K. Hoffman, the event also featured two panelists: Chicago law professor Anup Malani, who is visiting at the Petrie-Flom center, and James B. Rebitzer, a professor of health care finance at Case Western Reserve University.

Cutler and Philipson each made the case for his preferred candidates health care plans before answering questions posed by panelists and audience members. The two also gave their thoughts on the future of health care policy in light of the recent financial turmoil.

This crisis highlights the need to do more, Cutler said. Sen. Obama is now even more eager to deal with [health care-related] issues.

Philipson approached the topic more cautiously.

I dont think either camp has a Plan B for health care [should the bailout plan go through], Philipson said. Clearly, it would favor reduced spending. But this is all hypothetical.

Malani, who said he had hoped to examine the details and flush out the weaknesses in both candidates plans, spoke positively about the event afterwards.

I think we had some considerable success, Malani said. We got to push back on some of the details.

Health care is perennially one of the most important issues in presidential campaigns. According to the Petrie-Flom center, Americans spend $2 trillion on health care annually, a cost that is expected to grow dramatically in the coming decades.

More than 15 percent of our GDP is spent on health care, so it is a problem with major impacts, said Katherine E. Paras, a Petrie-Flom administrator who helped organize the debate.

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