Last month, Daniel Polsky tweeted out a special Valentine's Day greeting.
"Dear Health Spending," he wrote, "Roses are red, violets are blue, I'd love you if I had affordable, low-deductible, insurance coverage. Sadly, that is not true."
Polsky, a national leader in the field of health policy and economics, has dedicated his career to exploring how health care is organized, managed, financed, and delivered—especially for low-income people. Raising awareness on social media about the trade-offs between quality of care and total health spending is just one of his many passions.
"The issue I care most about is how to make sure people who need access to health care get the care they need," he says. "The reason so many people are having trouble accessing care is that the costs are out of reach for an increasing number of Americans."
This month, Polsky joins Johns Hopkins University as a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Health Economics. He comes to JHU from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a professor in the Perelman School of Medicine and a professor of health care management in the Wharton School. He also served as executive director of the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics, the nation's first academic research institution focused on interdisciplinary solutions to health care delivery and policy.
He will hold joint appointments in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Carey Business School.
"Today's public health challenges are complicated. They require leaders who can balance health policy solutions with economic expertise," said Ellen J. MacKenzie, dean of the Bloomberg School. "Daniel Polsky is just this type of leader, and we welcome him to the Bloomberg School. With his expertise, we know he will make an impact on mentoring tomorrow's health policy leaders and spearheading research that shapes fiscally sound health policies in the U.S. and abroad."
Added Bernard T. Ferrari, dean of Carey: "I'm delighted to welcome Dan Polsky as the third Bloomberg Distinguished Professor on the faculty of the Carey Business School. His impressive talents and his wide range of experiences both inside and outside the academic realm make him a perfect fit for the outstanding community of researchers and instructors at Carey. I look forward to Dan merging his expertise and insights with those of his colleagues at the Carey School and across the university."
Polsky began his career in public policy and economics before setting his sights on the burgeoning field of health economics. He received a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Michigan in 1989 and a PhD in economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996, when he joined the faculty at Penn.
"I've always been interested in ways of improving people's lives through effective public policy, and when I finished my PhD, there were very few people trained in health economics at the time," Polsky says. "I realized that health care involved a series of challenges that needed to be addressed much more at that system level where policy plays a role. And my career has continued to evolve since then."
In 2018, he was elected to the National Academy of Medicine. He serves on the Health and Medicine Committee and on the Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. He is an associate editor of the journal Health Economics and serves on the editorial boards of several other journals including Health Services Research and Medical Care Research and Review. He co-authored Economic Evaluation in Clinical Trials, which was recently published by Oxford University Press to international acclaim.
But his research goals extend beyond publication in scholarly journals.
"I'm not in academics just to write papers," he says. "I'm motivated by real-world problems. To solve them, we need to bring insights from research and evidence to find solutions."
To that end, he's served on several state and national policy advisory boards, including the Pennsylvania Governor's Advisory Board on Health and the U.S. President's Council of Economic Advisers. He currently serves as a health adviser to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office.
Most recently, his published research has centered on the impact of a proposed work requirement for Medicaid recipients in Pennsylvania, finding that the vast majority—roughly 97 percent—of the 2.9 million people enrolled in the state's Medicaid program would be exempt from work requirements. The report was presented to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and will help inform the state's policy on Medicaid work requirements.
He says it's gratifying to influence public policy based on the best available research in his field.
"One of the reasons we as a society have trouble overcoming these complex issues is because they involve so many different perspectives," Polsky says. "My focus, as an academic leader, is on bringing together multiple perspectives so we can explore larger systemic issues. And I'm excited to do that at Hopkins, which has the No. 1 academic health brand in the world and a great business school. I think the Bloomberg Professorship gives me a platform to bring what I've learned in my previous roles to the Hopkins environment."
Polsky is the 40th Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins and will take his place among an interdisciplinary cohort of scholars working to address major world problems and teach the next generation of physicians, scientists, and academics. The program is backed by a $350 million gift from Michael R. Bloomberg, a Johns Hopkins alumnus, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, World Health Organization Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases, UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Climate Action, and former New York City mayor.