Daniel Taekmin Nam '19 is an international student from South Korea. He is majoring in Economics and minoring in Applied Statistics. He is a member of the Connecticut College Football Club (CCFC), and the Pegotty Investment Club. He is currently in the middle of a two-year leave from Conn to serve in the Korean Army.
Over the summer, I was granted an exciting opportunity to conduct research on health care economics with Assistant Professor of Economics Mark Stelzner. I was able to pursue my academic interests out of the classroom thanks to the Funded Internship Program our college offers for juniors through the Office of Career and Professional Development.
The question we focused on was “Why is it so expensive to get healthcare in the United States?” This question developed in one of my classes during the spring of my junior year. While I was gathering data on health outcomes of different countries, I discovered that the United States was spending far more than any other country yet we are trailing behind in many health outcomes, such as life expectancy and infant mortality. I was able to dig deeper into the subject during the summer thanks to the support of my professor.
We got started with two long weeks of ardent yet arduous reading and realized that much of the story we wanted to explore had already been covered by many different academic writings. However, a lot of the readings were fragmented, showing parts of the picture rather than providing a well-rounded narrative. So we highlighted three major factors that were consistently adding to our already-expensive health care system: deregulation of antitrust policies, consolidation in various health care industries and changes in patent laws in the pharmaceutical industry. Deregulation of antitrust laws were making it easier for firms to merge to create a conglomerate firm, leading to monopolization in many of the markets. This was shown in all aspects of the healthcare industry, starting with hospitals, health insurance, and physicians. These gradual trends of consolidation led to an overall increase in costs experienced by consumers while the firms were able to increase their revenue. Changes in patent laws for pharmaceuticals worked in the opposite direction of antitrust laws. Patent laws became far more stringent, granting patent holding companies large amounts of monopolistic power. These new changes made it hard for generics to enter the drug market, granting a competition-free environment for patented drugs.
It was fascinating to see our readings reveal substantial findings. Many of the skills I learned in the classroom were further enhanced during our research. Working so closely with my professor gave me invaluable experience in problem-solving and research methods. What truly made this experience special was the fact that I was given the opportunity to find a comprehensive answer to a query I developed myself in class.
Currently, our paper is submitted for publication. I would not have had such an opportunity to both quench my academic interest and develop my career had it not been for the support from my professor and the Office of Career and Professional Development. Next year I plan to further develop my research through a senior thesis.