Tom Baker’s research lies at the intersection of health care, insurance, and the law. His insights on risk, responsibility and decisionmaking have had a significant impact on policy, most recently on the development of health insurance marketplaces under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) .
The son of a family care physician, Baker remembers the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid as a child in the mid-1960s. An even more vivid memory is the two huge, Impressionist-style murals decorating the walls of his father’s office in upstate New York. A patient painted the murals in return for providing health care to him and his family over the years, he explains. Later, as Baker’s career evolved, from a private legal practice in Washington, DC, to a succession of academic positions, he was increasingly drawn to the issues of access to medical care, insurance coverage, and related law.
Baker firmly grounds his work in reality, even as he draws upon theories from multiple disciplines. His book The Medical Malpractice Myth (University of Chicago Press 2005) reframed the public debate on the impact of malpractice litigation on health care costs; more recently, he is studying the impact of the ACA’s new health care marketplaces on market dynamics and on the accessibility, cost and quality of health care.
He is the co-director of the LDI Health Insurance Exchanges (HIX) Research Group. In addition to research, the group hosts the annual Penn-LDI Health Insurance Marketplace Conference, which brings together academic researchers and health care exchange officials to discuss ways to align research findings with implementation efforts. “We’re beyond the stage where the technology of the exchanges is the issue; now we’re looking at the design of the marketplace,” Baker says. The conference educates exchange directors about research findings and how they can be applied while helping researchers understand the realities of how the exchanges operate. “We get people in the room talking,” says Baker.
Examining ways to increase the quality and affordability of consumers’ health care experience remains one of Baker’s ongoing interests. He has drawn on perspectives from economics, psychology, and sociology in recent articles about consumer decisionmaking on the marketplaces, including, “Putting the Health Back in Health Insurance,” and “Can Consumers Make Affordable Care Affordable? The Value of Choice Architecture.”
Baker is the William Maul Measey Professor of Law and Health Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and a member of the Health Care Management Department and Business Economics and Public Policy Department at the Wharton School.
In 2013, Baker received the Robert B. McKay award, a lifetime scholarly achievement award given by the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section of the American Bar Association. He has served as a visiting professor at institutions including Vanderbilt University Law School, Columbia Law School and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School with a JD degree and magna cum laude from Harvard College with a BA in Sociology.