Benjamin D. Sommers

Associate Professor of Health Policy and Economics and Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Areas of Expertise:
  • Inequality & the Middle Class
  • Health Care Delivery
  • Health Care Reform
  • Medicare & Medicaid

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About Benjamin

Sommers is a health economist and a practicing primary care doctor. His work focuses on health coverage and access to care, especially for low-income Americans. His research examines important policy issues related to Medicaid, private health insurance, the Affordable Care Act, and the health care safety net. Since 2011, he has also served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.



"Medicaid Expansion in Texas: What's at Stake?," The Commonwealth Fund, April 2016.

Presents how Texas is one of nearly 20 states yet to expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and is home to the largest number of uninsured Americans of any state in the country. Argues that ongoing efforts from stakeholders and consumer groups to persuade state leaders to expand coverage have significant implications for the well-being of millions of low-income adults in Texas.

"Issues in Health Reform: How Changes in Eligibility May Move Millions Back and Forth between Medicaid and Insurance Exchanges" (with Sara Rosenbaum). Health Affairs 30, no. 2 (2011): 228-236.
Estimates that within a six month period, more than 35 percent of all adults with family incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level would experience a shift in eligibility from Medicaid to an insurance exchange, or the reverse.
"Mortality and Health Insurance among Adults after State Medicaid Expansions" (with Katherine Baicker and Arnold M. Epstein). New England Journal of Medicine 367, no. 11 (2012): 1025-1034.
Finds evidence that state Medicaid expansions to cover low-income adults were significantly associated with reduced mortality as well as improved coverage, access to care, and self-reported health.
"The Affordable Care Act Has Led to Significant Gains in Health Insurance Coverage and Access to Care for Young Adults" (with Thomas Buchmueller, Sandra L. Decker, Colleen Carey, and Richard Kronick). Health Affairs 32, no. 1 (2012): 165-174.
Finds strong evidence of increased access to care because of the law, with significant reductions in the number of young adults who delayed getting care and in those who did not receive needed care because of cost.
"The Poverty-Reducing Effect of Medicaid" (with Donald Oellerich). Journal of Health Economics 32, no. 5 (2013): 816-832.
Estimates the impact of eliminating Medicaid, and finds that Medicaid reduces out-of-pocket medical spending from $871 to $376 per beneficiary, and decreases poverty rates by 1.0% among children, 2.2% among disabled adults, and 0.7% among elderly individuals.
"Insurance Cancellations in Context: Stability of Coverage in the Nongroup Market Prior to Health Reform" Health Affairs 33, no. 5 (2014): 887-894.
Provides evidence on the stability of nongroup health insurance coverage using U.S. census data for the period 2008-11, before the Affordable Care Act provisions took effect, addressing concerns about the law’s effect on rates of insurance in the short term.
"Changes in Mortality after Massachusetts’ Health Care Reform" (with Sharon K. Long and Katherine Baicker). Annals of Internal Medicine 160, no. 9 (2014): 585-593.
Finds that health care reform in Massachusetts was associated with a significant decrease in all-cause mortality compared with the control group, and deaths from causes amenable to health care also significantly decreased.

In the News

Benjamin D. Sommers quoted , "Medicaid Expansion Linked with Better, More Timely Surgical Care" EurekAlert!, January 24, 2018.
Interview on the future of American health careBenjamin D. Sommers, The Harvard Gazette, February 2, 2018.
Benjamin D. Sommers quoted in Sam Schwarz, "Obamacare Improved Surgical Treatment, Likely Saved Lives, New Study Finds" Newsweek, January 25, 2018.
Benjamin D. Sommers quoted in Cody Fenwick, "Here's How Medicaid Expansion is Making People's Lives Better" White House Patch, January 26, 2018.
Benjamin D. Sommers quoted in Jay Hancock, "When Every Year Means an 'Agonizing' Search for New Insurance" New York Times, January 4, 2018.
Benjamin D. Sommers quoted in Mitchell Hartman and David Brancaccio, "Trump to Cut off Federal Subsidies to Health Insurers under Obamacare" Marketplace, October 13, 2017.
Benjamin D. Sommers quoted on Medicaid expansion in Lisa Rapaport, "ACA Medicaid Expansion Tied to Earlier Cancer Care for the Poor" Reuters, September 14, 2017.
"Medicaid Expansion is Working in Louisiana – but Repeal Could Undo Progress," Benjamin D. Sommers (with Carrie Fry), The Advocate, July 7, 2017.
Benjamin D. Sommers's research on negative effects of a loss of insurance discussed in Philip BumpBenjamin D. Sommers, "The Hard-to-Answer Question at the Core of the Health-Care Fight: How Many More People Might Die?," The Washington Post, June 27, 2017.
"Face Facts, GOP: ObamaCare is a Lifeline That's Doing Enormous Good," Benjamin D. Sommers, USA Today, June 20, 2017.
Benjamin D. Sommers quoted on Medicaid work requirements in Max Ehrenfreund, "Republicans Threaten to Deny Poor People Medical Care if They Aren’t Working" The Washington Post, March 18, 2017.
"The GOP Health-Care Plan Would Quietly Kill the Medicaid Expansion. Here’s How.," Benjamin D. Sommers, The Washington Post, March 9, 2017.
"Repealing the Affordable Care Act – Fact vs. Fiction," Benjamin D. Sommers (with Jonathan Gruber), Boston Globe, December 8, 2016.
Benjamin D. Sommers quoted on Medicaid expansions in Margot Sanger-Katz, "Study Suggests Affordable Care Act is Improving Health" Boston Globe, August 10, 2016.
Benjamin D. Sommers quoted on reaching the low-income uninsured in the states that refused to expand Medicaid in Alvin Powell, "Inequality Runs Deeper than Health Law" Harvard Gazette, April 22, 2016.
Benjamin D. Sommers quoted on Medicaid expansion in Sarah Kliff, "Kentucky’s New Republican Governor is Entrenching ObamaCare While Pretending to Dismantle It" Vox, January 12, 2016.
Benjamin D. Sommers's research on how the ACA is reducing disparities in access to health care discussed in Laura UngarBenjamin D. Sommers, "Obamacare Reduces Uninsured Rates, Improves Access to Care, Study Finds," USA Today, July 28, 2015.
Benjamin D. Sommers's research on who would be affected by the Supreme Court's decision in King v. Burwell discussed in Janell RossBenjamin D. Sommers, "Exactly Which Americans Had Their Obamacare Subsidies Saved Thursday?," The Washington Post, June 25, 2015.
Benjamin D. Sommers quoted on expanding Medicaid under ObamaCare can help early detection of chronic health conditions in Lisa Rapaport, "More Diabetes Cases Diagnosed after Medicaid Expansion" Reuters, March 24, 2015.
Benjamin D. Sommers's research on adverse tiering discussed in Todd DatzBenjamin D. Sommers, "Health Insurers May be Using Drug Coverage to Discriminate," Health Canal, February 1, 2015.
Benjamin D. Sommers's research on the effects of Affordable Care in MA discussed in Deborah KotzBenjamin D. Sommers, "Study Calls Wide Mass. Coverage a Lifesaver," Boston Globe, May 5, 2014.
Guest to discuss the Affordable Care Act on The Melissa Harris-Perry Show, Benjamin D. Sommers, May 10, 2014.
Guest to discuss the Affordable Care Act on The Melissa Harris-Perry Show, Benjamin D. Sommers, May 10, 2014.
Benjamin D. Sommers's research on the positive effects of Affordable Care discussed in Sabrina TaverniseBenjamin D. Sommers, "Mortality Drop Seen to Follow ’06 Health Law," New York Times, May 5, 2014.
Benjamin D. Sommers's research on disparities in state Medicaid expansion discussed in Annie LowreyBenjamin D. Sommers, "In Texarkana, Uninsured and on the Wrong Side of a State Line," New York Times, June 8, 2014.
Benjamin D. Sommers's research on trends in employer coverage discussed in Margot Sanger-KatzBenjamin D. Sommers, "Why More, Not Fewer, People Might Start Getting Health Insurance through Work," New York Times, August 20, 2014.