William Hsiao

William Hsiao

K.T. Li Research Professor of Economics, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health
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William Hsiao is the K.T. Li Research Professor of Economics in the Department of Health Policy and Management and the Department of Global Health and Population, at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. He received his PhD in Economics from Harvard University. He is also a fully qualified actuary with extensive experience in private and social insurance. Dr. Hsiao’s health economic and policy research program spans across developed and less developed nations.

He is a leading global expert in universal health insurance, which he has studied for more than forty years. He has been actively engaged in designing health system reforms and universal health insurance programs for many countries, including the United States, Taiwan, China, Colombia, Poland, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Sweden, Cyprus, Uganda, and most recently for Malaysia and South Africa. He also designed a single payer universal insurance model for the state of Vermont which was intended to serve as a vanguard for the United States. Vermont passed a law based on his recommendations. However the recent set-back in Vermont’s economic development has put the implementation of the single-payer system in question.

In his work for developing nations, Hsiao’s research focuses on sustainable financing mechanisms to provide health care for poor, rural populations. With UNICEF’s support, he collaborated with seven universities in China to conduct a nationwide study on health care financing and provision for the 900 million poor Chinese. Later, he carried out a social experiment on community financing that resulted in reforming the design of China’s health insurance benefits for the 900 million rural residents and covered prevention and primary care. Currently, with the support of the Gates Foundation, he launched a large scale social experiment with a population of 600,000 to test models to improve the financing and delivery of basic health care for the 350 million low-income rural residents in China. This model is being replicated in the western regions of China.

Hsiao developed the “control knobs” framework for diagnosing the causes for the successes or failures of national health systems. His analytical framework has shaped how we conceptualize national health systems, and has been used extensively by various nations around the world in health system reforms.

In his past research, Hsiao developed the resource-based relative value scale (RBRVS) for setting physician fees. The RBRVS quantified the variation in resource inputs for different physician services. Hsiao was named the Man of the Year in Medicine in 1989 for his development of a new payment method. Hsiao and his colleagues also developed a large scale simulation model that intends to assess the fiscal and health impacts produced by various national health insurance plans. Using time series/cross-sectional data, Hsiao’s team designed a multi-equation model that employs a number of variables to predict utilization rates and prices of health services. This model also predicts total health expenditures from supply and demand variables.

Hsiao was elected to be a member of the Institute of Medicine within the U.S. National Academy of Science. He was also elected to be a board member of the National Academy of Social Insurance and Society of Actuaries.

He has published more than 180 papers and several books and served on numerous editorial boards of professional journals. Hsiao served as an adviser to three U.S. presidents, the U.S. Congress, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Health Organization, and the International Labor Organization. He is a recipient of honorary professorships from several leading Chinese universities and several awards from his profession.