Author Archives: Peter Ubel

Money for Nothing

Nov 6, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by Peter Ubel

Peter Ubel, MD, is a physician and behavioral scientist. He is the Madge and Dennis T. McLawhorn University Professor of Business, Public Policy and Medicine at Duke University, an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Generalist Physician Faculty Scholar program, and recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research.

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During a break between classes, I offered some MBA students the chance to make a little extra money. Some would have a job of sitting in the classroom for five minutes doing nothing, absolutely nothing – no reading, no listening to music; just staring straight ahead. For this effortless job, they would receive $2.50.

Others would have the job of sitting in the same room for those same five minutes, but rather than staring into space they would be asked to solve word puzzles, forming four-word sentences out of five-word combinations. For example, the words “eagle apple majestic soars” could be turned into the sentence: the majestic eagle soars.

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Why We Need More Twelve-Year-Olds Teaching Health Policy

Aug 17, 2012, 9:00 AM, Posted by Peter Ubel

Peter Ubel, MD, is a physician and behavioral scientist.  He is the Madge and Dennis T. McLawhorn University Professor of Business, Public Policy and Medicine at Duke University, an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Generalist Physician Faculty Scholar program, and the recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research.

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I come from an ardent Republican family.  Suspicion of government, you could say, runs in my genes.  No surprise then that the first time my parents and siblings heard about Obama’s individual health insurance mandate, they were against it. 

I live in a college town.  Suspicion of Republicans, you could say, lurks in my ‘hood.  No surprise then that in the 1990’s, when the Republicans were proposing alternatives to President Clinton’s health care reform efforts, people in my neighborhood were against it.  Funny thing though: that Republican alternative was based, in part, on the idea of an individual health insurance mandate, an idea my current Chapel Hill neighbors largely support. 

That’s right, in a previous life the individual mandate was a Republican idea and now, in most people’s minds, it is a Democratic one.  Indeed, mere mention of the policy elicits strong emotion from people, even though public opinion polls have consistently shown that the majority of Americans do not understand how the mandate works, or why both parties have, at one time or another, viewed it as a good idea. 

So I decided to make a video with my twelve-year-old son, an unscripted discussion about health insurance (what twelve-year-old wouldn’t want to have that conversation?), to see how easily a middle schooler could understand the rationale for incentivizing people to buy health insurance.

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