Helen Levy, Ph.D.

Helen Levy
Research Professor
Institute for Social ResearchSurvey Research Center


Dr. Levy's research interests include the causes and consequences of lacking health insurance, evaluation of public health insurance programs, and the role of health literacy in explaining disparities in health outcomes. Additionally, she is an associate director of the Health and Retirement Study, the Institute for Social Research’s long-running longitudinal study of health and economic dynamics at older ages. She is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and served as a Senior Economist to the President's Council of Economic Advisers in 2010-11. She also is a member of the IHPI Institute Leadership Team (ILT).

  • Ph.D., Economics, Princeton University
  • B.A., Mathematics and History, Yale University
Featured Member Profile

What are you thinking about?

Like a lot of people, I am spending a lot of time thinking about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. In particular, I am wondering what effect it will have on employer-sponsored health insurance. Some people say that this is the beginning of the end for employer-sponsored coverage - that all employers are going to put their workers into the new health insurance exchanges. I tend to think that this will happen only for the workers who may really be better off getting their insurance at a place other than work, like part-time workers and workers at small firms.

What are the practical implications for healthcare?

I think the important thing for the provision of care is that people have coverage, regardless of whether it is from an employer or an exchange. But the source of coverage does matter for other reasons. It affects who gets tax subsidies, for one thing; higher-income people get them if they have employer-sponsored coverage while lower-income people get them through the exchange. It might also be better for labor markets if you could choose your job without having to worry about whether or not it provides insurance, but we don’t know how big this effect will be.

Why is this interesting to you?

Two reasons. One is that it puts economic models to the test. We think we understand why employers provide health insurance, but do we really? The other is that it has been such a sensitive issue politically since even before the health reform law was passed. We have had the president saying “If you like the coverage you have, you can keep it” at the same time that others were prophesying doom. So which is it going to be? Now we get to find out.

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