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CEP/STICERD Applications Seminars

Interest groups, ideology, and indirect lobbying: The rise of private health insurance in the United States

Marcella Alsan (Harvard Kennedy School), joint with Yousra Neberai and Xingyou Ye

Monday 19 February 2024 12:00 - 13:30

Many of our seminars and public events this year will continue as in person or as hybrid (online and in person) events. Please check our website listings and Twitter feed @STICERD_LSE for updates.

Unless otherwise specified, in-person seminars are open to the public.

Those unable to join the seminars in-person are welcome to participate via zoom if the event is hybrid.


About this event

This study examines the rise of private health insurance (PHI) in the United States in the post-World War II era (1946-1954). We examine the role of the American Medical Association (AMA) which financed a campaign against national health insurance (NHI) directed by the country's first political public relations firm, Whitaker and Baxter (WB). The AMA-WB Campaign had two key components: (1) physicians who would endorse private health insurance (PHI) to patients; and (2) newspaper advertising that described PHI as “freedom” and “the American way." We bring together archival data from several novel sources to assess whether the Campaign was effective. we find that areas more exposed to the Campaign experienced sharp declines in support for NHI and increased enrollment in PHI. A one standard deviation increase in AMA-WB Campaign exposure is associated with a 2.3 percentage point increase in PHI enrollment on average, per year, or 2\% of the increase in the post-Campaign period. We also find effects on physician financial contributions to the Republican presidential candidate in 1952 as well as on policy debates from the Congressional Record. These findings suggest the rise of PHI in the U.S. was not solely due to price controls, collective bargaining, or favorable tax treatment. Rather, it was enabled by an interest group financed Campaign that used ideology to indirectly lobby policymakers by persuading ordinary citizens.

Applications (Applied Micro) Seminars are held on Mondays in term time at 12:00-13:30 in SAL 3.05 in person.

Seminar organiser: Maitreesh Ghatak

For further information please contact Sadia Ali: s.ali43@lse.ac.uk.

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