Health Economics Program

Health care is a major domestic policy issue. National health care expenditures reached $2.9 trillion in 2013, consuming 17.4 percent of gross domestic product. This growth in expenditures is likely to accelerate as the population ages and as scientific progress introduces more effective, but more expensive, procedures.

The Health Economics Program’s mission is to study the ways in which economic incentives and government policies influence the quality and costs of health care. The program’s guiding philosophy is that society can deliver high-quality medical care while controlling expenditures. Health care providers, patients and others must be offered incentives to balance costs against benefits to ensure that resources are not wasted. No other health policy research center focuses on the effects of incentives embodied in institutional arrangements.

Vivian Ho, the James A. Baker III Institute Chair in Health Economics, has been the principal investigator on grants supported by the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. She is studying the effects of market competition and regulation on hospital quality and costs, as well as the effects of the Affordable Care Act in Texas. The program aims to communicate its research results to health industry practitioners and policymakers through a biennial conference on health care reform, which emphasizes dialogue between physicians, health care executives, policymakers and researchers. Findings are being disseminated through public policy journals, clinical and social science journals, and international academic conferences. Another aim is to increase the available supply of researchers in the health policy field through the training of Baker Institute interns, undergraduate and graduate students at Rice University, and clinicians interested in health policy at the Texas Medical Center.


Health Economics Research