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The national debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has involved substantial discussion about what effects — if any — insurance coverage has on health care, health, and well-being. The idea that the law’s replacement might lead to millions of Americans losing coverage has brought this question into sharp focus.

Evidence from the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, of which Dean Baicker is a principal investigator, provided a unique opportunity to gauge the effects of expanding access to public health insurance on the health care use, financial strain, and health of low-income adults using a randomized controlled design. In the year following the random assignment, the treatment group had higher health care utilization, lower out-of-pocket medical expenditures and medical debt, and better self-reported physical and mental health than the control group, but did not have detectable improvements in physical health conditions like high blood pressure – leaving policy-makers with tough choices in balancing costs and benefits.

On April 19, Harris Dean Katherine Baicker discussed her recent research on these and other topics during BFI’s spring Friedman Forum, a luncheon series that offers students an opportunity for informal discussions with prominent economists.