The Health Economy and Health Insurance Research in the Jri

By Santerre, Rexford E.; Hilliard, James I. | Risk Management and Insurance Review, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

The Health Economy and Health Insurance Research in the Jri


Santerre, Rexford E., Hilliard, James I., Risk Management and Insurance Review


ABSTRACT

College professors typically expend a considerable amount of time, energy, and effort on academic research. But only one study to date has demonstrated the societal benefit of such research by showing that the content of academic research responds to real-world problems. This article adds to this scant literature by investigating empirically if the prevalence of health insurance articles in the Journal of Risk and Insurance (JRI) can be explained by the state of the health economy. According to the findings, both the uninsured rate and health care spending share are directly related to the percentage of health insurance articles published in the JRI. Thus, the empirical results suggest that the research decisions of insurance economists are influenced at the margin by real-world problems.

INTRODUCTION

Like in many other disciplines, business, health services, and social science professors typically expend a considerable amount of time, energy, and effort on academic research. Most believe that the social benefits of academic research outweigh these costs. Among the benefits, research helps us better understand the behavior and interplay of people and organizations in the world around us. Armed with this information, institutions and policies can be created or reformed to improve societal welfare. In addition, research keeps faculty up to date about new developments in their fields, which they can share with their students in the classroom.

It stands to reason that academic research devoted to timely and socially important topics provides greater external benefits. If so, one might investigate if current real-world conditions shape the content of academic research to gauge if scholarship truly offers social benefits. Until now, only one article has analyzed this relationship between realworld conditions and the focus of academic research. Using information on the content of various articles from a sample of economic journals published over the years 1950 through 1988, Laband et al. (1990) find that the percentage of journal articles devoted to macroeconomic issues relates to the state of the macroeconomy as captured by inflation, unemployment, and real income growth. They conclude that "choices among competing research topics are driven at the margin by events taking place in the economy" (p. 711).

Whereas Laband et al. (1990) offer some tantalizing evidence, additional data points are needed before generalizations can be made about the social value of academic research. Thus, to extend our knowledge, this article examines empirically whether the state of the health economy influences the percentage of articles devoted to health insurance research in the Journal of Risk and Insurance (JRI).

The JRI is the outlet of particular interest because of its premier standing among insurance journals and its general purpose nature. The JRI publishes articles pertaining to risk and insurance theory and relating to various types of private and pubUc insurance (e.g., property and casualty, Social Security, and workers compensation) in addition to articles on health insurance issues.1 Moreover, the JRI has its roots in precursor journals dating back to the early 1930s, which allows for a relatively long period for descriptive and formal time series analyses.

Research devoted to health insurance is examined for two reasons. First, health clearly represents a socially important topic. Nordhaus (2005) estimates the economic value of longevity increased during the 20th century to be as large as the measured growth of nonhealth goods and services. Health insurance serves as a financing mechanism for medical care and thus has an indirect impact on health. In fact, Santerre (2006) explains that the value of health insurance can be derived from the demand for health and shows empirically that the access value of private health insurance increased significantly over the last four decades. …

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