Health Care Economist Nichols to Direct Mason Center

Posted: March 15, 2010 at 1:04 am, Last Updated: March 15, 2010 at 8:16 am

By Marjorie Musick

Len Nichols

Len M. Nichols, renowned health care economist and former director of the Health Policy Program at New America Foundation (NAF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research institute, joined Mason’s College of Health and Human Services on March 1 as a professor and director of the Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics (CHPRE).

“Dr. Len Nichols is a highly regarded U.S. health policy expert. He is approachable, witty, extraordinarily well informed and a respected scholar,” says P.J. Maddox, professor and chair of Mason’s Department of Health Administration and Policy.

“Our faculty, staff and students will benefit greatly from his energy, vision and experience in U.S. health policy.”

In his position at NAF, Nichols successfully bridged the worlds of health economics and health services research among health system stakeholders and clinical leaders, elected and appointed policy officials and journalists.

He founded and directed Health CEOs for Health Reform, an NAF sub-group that was pivotal in helping policy-makers see that delivery system reform and health insurance reform are necessary and feasible partners.

During his time at NAF, Nichols testified frequently before Congress and state legislators and published widely in a variety of health journals, including a commentary on the health care debate, “Be Not Afraid,” which was published Feb. 24 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Before joining NAF, Nichols served as vice president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, principal research associate at the Urban Institute, senior advisor for health policy at the Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration and chair of the Economics Department at Wellesley College.

“Health reform is lumpy, but lumpy is hard to explain. And because it has been badly explained and deliberately distorted by opponents, the politicians have lost the essential trust it takes to make democracy work. That is their biggest challenge now,” says Nichols.

“Is it better to earn the people’s trust by stopping in your tracks and following the people’s confusion and fear? Or is it better to earn the people’s trust by humbly explaining why counterintuitive things are actually in their interest and our country’s interest — in other words, by leading? That is the choice they face today.”

Nichols also notes that CHPRE has the potential to be a major contributor to health policy at the national and state levels, and that this potential springs from the people and students who dedicate their time and passion to the growing field of health policy research.

“I want to keep researching, writing, speaking, listening and teaching to make our health care system sustainable and workable for all Americans, but I relish the chance to do so from a great and rising public university with many more intellectual resources to leverage than a think tank can ever marshal.

“When I visited the campus and saw how diverse and ambitious the student body was, and when I met with the faculty and staff and saw how dedicated they were to making Mason great, I knew that this was the place for me,” says Nichols.

“CHPRE’s role is to take the important work that is already being done and make it more visible and connected to the policy processes in D.C. and state capitals. By so doing, I know that we will inspire even greater works that will prove instrumental in making high-quality health care a reality.”

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