The purpose of our trip to Sydney was to present papers at the 9th International Health Economics Association (iHEA).  This is one of my favorite conferences, where I can interact with fellow health economists, and there now is a sister organization, ASHE (American Society of Health Economics).  I have attended most of the iHEA meetings, but this is the first one that Shirley has attended, so it was great for her to make this one.

We both presented papers at this one, so that was fun.  Shirley presented a paper on prescription drug switching between brand and generic drugs, and I saw her present the paper – she did great!  I presented research (joint with my colleagues Leah Kemper, Abigail Barker and Keith Mueller) on the quality of Medicare Advantage plans.  I think that presentation also went well. 

As always I have enjoyed seeing colleagues I have met over the years, and catching up with them, although this meeting had fewer colleagues from the U.S. given how far it was to travel.  Shirley and I had a fabulous and fun dinner with two colleagues from the leadership of iHEA, Tom Getzen and Patrick Taylor, in Chinatown.  We ate about seven dishes and we treated them to the meal for all the support and hard work they have given me over the years, but really that wasn’t much of a heavy lift for us, since the whole bill for four of us was only 54 Aussie dollars!

I think a real highlight of the conference for me was to attend a session celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ken Arrow’s landmark paper, “Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Medical Care," published in the American Economic Review in 1963.  Most health economists think this is the most important paper ever written about health economics, and probably started the whole field, and was a precursor to the whole field, in that it foreshadowed essentially almost every topic we have been discussing for the last 50 years. 

There was a session at the conference that started with a video interview of Arrow, now 91 years old, being interviewed about his paper and what led him to write it, what he thinks about it now, and other observations.  Arrow is my favorite economist, along with Paul Samuelson, so it was great to see him, and to see that he is still so brilliant and lucid.