The Incidental Economist
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The Incidental Economist is a blog focused on economics, U.S. health policy, politics, and law, though posts in other areas are common. It was founded in 2009 by Austin Frakt, a health economist and Boston University assistant professor. Austin has been joined by Aaron Carroll, associate professor of Pediatrics and health services researcher at Indiana University School of Medicine, and Don Taylor, associate professor of Public Policy at Duke University, as the blog's principal authors. Other contributors include Kevin Outterson, associate professor of law at Boston University School of Law, Ian B. Crosby, an antitrust attorney, and Steve Pizer, a health economist and Boston University associate professor. The blog also hosts occasional guest posts by academics and other bloggers.
The content of The Incidental Economist is often technical with arguments turning on specifics gleaned from academic literature and policy nuances. About the blog's posts, journalist Kevin Drum wrote,
They tend to be pretty wonky, but if you like that kind of stuff you should check out [the] blog. It's called The Incidental Economist.
The blog's tagline is "Contemplating health care with a focus on research, an eye on reform," and the authors promise that they "think before [they] write, and write what [they] know. Few if any posts at The Incidental Economist are idle speculation or shallow observations." Posts are often policy relevant, timely, and include arguments supported by academic literature.
During 2009 and 2010, The Incidental Economist gained visibility among journalists covering Barack Obama's health reform agenda. It was frequently cited by Ezra Klein, Kevin Drum, Jonathan Cohn, Andrew Sullivan, among others.
A few broad themes or types of posts recur at The Incidental Economist. One genre of posts is policy relevant literature reviews. For instance, in a response to Megan McArdle's March 2010 article in The Atlantic that ignited a debate over the connection between health insurance and mortality, Harvard assistant professor and physician J. Michael McWilliams provided a literature review on the subject. McWilliam's post and related ones were cited by numerous journalists.
Other literature review posts have covered the topics of health care cost shifting, employer-sponsored health insurance versus wage trade-off, and many on employer-sponsored health insurance in general. Again, many posts of this type have been cited by journalists covering health policy.
- Drum, K. (2009). Joe Lieberman is 21% right (and 79% wrong). Mother Jones. December 9.
- See the blog's About page.
- E.g. Klein, E. (2009). Letters to health-care Santa: Bring the market to Medicare Advantage, and the House's employer mandate to the final bill. The Washington Post. December 22.
- E.g. Drum, K. (2010). Is health insurance good for you? Mother Jones. February 15.
- E.g. Cohn, J. (2010). Give me insurance or give me death. The New Republic. February 16.
- E.g. Sullivan, A. (2010). Pass. The. Damn. Bill. The Atlantic. February 1.
- See the blog's Selected Citations page for additional citations of note.
- McArdle, M. (2010). Myth diagnosis. The Atlantic. March.
- McWillams, J.M. (2010). Letting perfect be the enemy of good? The Incidental Economist. February 15.
- Steadman, K. (2010). Debating whether health insurance saves lives. Kaiser Health News. February 16.
- Sullivan, A. (2010). How many die for lack of insurance? Ctd. The Atlantic. February 15.
- Klein, E. (2010). When opinions on health-care insurance stop being polite and start getting complicated. The Washington Post. February 15.
- Relevant posts listed under the cost shift tag.
- E.g. Frakt, A. (2010). Do premiums affect wages? The Incidental Economist. January 7.
- Relevant posts listed under the employer sponsored health insurance tag.
- E.g. McArdle, M. (2009). Medicare cost shifting: Does it happen, and how much? The Atlantic. December 9.
- Relevant posts listed under the Yale tag.